SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Last season in the English Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur averaged 1.76 goals per match, the fifth-best mark out of 20 teams.
So for the San Jose Earthquakes to hold Spurs scoreless in a 0-0 friendly Saturday before a Buck Shaw Stadium-record crowd of 10,712 bodes well for the hosts’ defensive abilities. And it should give the Quakes a confidence boost heading into a match Thursday against MLS’ best offense – that of the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.
For Tottenham, it was disappointing not to put a goal on the board against their club partner, especially when potentially outbound striker Robbie Keane missed on a couple of short-range headers. But the friendly served its purpose in helping the team build its conditioning base in the 80-plus-degree heat before heading east for the Barclays New York Challenge.
Tottenham dominated possession early, and Keane appeared to make it pay off when he found the back of the net in the 11th minute, knocking home a Jermaine Jenas pass at the far post. Keane was judged to be barely offside, however.
Keane had another chance to put Spurs ahead in the 25th minute when he slipped unmarked onto the edge of the 6-yard box, but he had to bend low to head Kyle Naughton’s cross, and the attempt skidded past the far post.
By that point, the Earthquakes had found their footing and, over the final 30 minutes of the first half, San Jose actually had the better run of play.
Quakes captain Ramiro Corrales kept a 35-yard blast on frame in the 23rd minute to force a diving save by Carlo Cudicini, who was playing in only his second match since breaking both wrists and a pelvis in a November motorcycle crash.
Cudicini was up to everything San Jose sent his way, most of it barely off the ground. In the 34th minute, Cornell Glen cut past Younes Kaboul and another Tottenham defender before firing low to Cudicini’s left, where he gobbled up the ball.
With rookie center back Ike Opara held out as a precautionary measure because of hamstring issues, the Earthquakes shuffled Jason Hernandez into the middle to pair with Bobby Burling and reinstated Chris Leitch at right back.
The 31-year-old had his hands full with 19-year-old midfielder Andros Townsend and 21-year-old fullback Gareth Bale – both of whom celebrated their birthdays Friday – streaming down the left side to generate looks for Keane. But Leitch recovered from a rough start to put a pin in several different Spurs attacks.
Tottenham fans held their breath in the 67th minute when Bale went down with a yell after his follow-through from a clearance drove the top of his left foot into the studs of Quakes rookie Omar Jasseh. Bale gingerly stepped off the field, but checked back in after a couple minutes worth of treatment and finished out the contest.
San Jose switched out all six of its forwards and midfielders at the half, but other than a long-range attempt by Arturo Alvarez in the 53rd minute – stopped, again, on the floor by Cudicini – they didn’t generate much in the way of solid chances until the very end.
Jasseh drew a free kick at 27 yards in the 86th minute, but Javier Robles pushed the shot high. Alvarez led a two-on-three break in the 89th minute and fed Ryan Johnson, who was stripped immediately in the box.
SJ -- Omar Jasseh (caution), 83rd minute
Tottenham Hotspur: Cudicini; Hutton (Kranjcar 46), Kaboul, Walker (Smith 71), Bale; Naughton (Modric 46), Jenas, Huddlestone (Butcher 85), Townsend; Obika (Pavlyuchenko 46), Keane (Mason 78)
San Jose: Busch (Cannon 46); Leitch (Jasseh 46), Burling, Hernandez, Corrales (Morrow 77); Gjertsen, McDonald (Ring 46), Cronin (Robles 46), Convey (Alvarez 46); Glen (Sealy 46), Wondolowski (Johnson 46)