SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski had all the chances. Álvaro Saborío had all the goals.
Saborío scored twice in the final 20 minutes and Real Salt Lake kept Wondolowski, the league’s reigning MVP, off the scoreboard to beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 Sunday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Saborío broke things open in the 71st minute by outracing two San Jose defenders to reach a looping lead pass from Joao Plata. The 17-goal scorer from 2012 then fired home from 17 yards with a strong right foot to the near post, cleanly beating helpless San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
RSL got their insurance goal when Kyle Beckerman – making his 300th career MLS appearance – found Saborío too loosely marked in the Quakes’ box. The Costa Rican international swiveled nicely at 11 yards to tuck a left-footed shot inside the far post.
It was a measure of revenge for the visitors, who lost all three matches to San Jose last year, including 3-1 and 5-0 road defeats in which they saw red a combined three times. RSL are now 3-0 in opening-weekend matches at Buck Shaw, having also won here to begin the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The loss snapped San Jose’s 18-match regular-season unbeaten streak at Buck Shaw, which dated to Aug. 13, 2011. It was also the first time San Jose went scoreless in a regular-season contest since a 0-0 in the heat at FC Dallas on July 7, a stretch of 15 games.
Wondolowski finished with seven shots, but could not open his 2013 account after tying Roy Lassiter’s single-season MLS scoring record last year with 27 goals. The only shot he put on goal crashed off the crossbar, with help from fingertip push from RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who posted his 100th career MLS clean sheet.
The outcome was a marked departure from the first half, when the Quakes dominated play but couldn’t come up with the goal they needed to take control.
San Jose nearly got on the board from three of their first four set pieces of the season, each time targeting Wondolowski. But the MVP’s back-post header slid wide in the third minute, his full volley was blocked by Tony Beltran in the 14th and his half-volley a minute later bounced off the ground and, with Rimando’s assistance, into the crossbar.
Wondolowski turned distributor in the 21st minute, one-timing a long pass from Ty Harden into the path of Mike Fucito, who had dummied smartly on the original ball. Though untouched by Rimando, Fucito’s angled shot from 8 yards was pulled wide of the far post.
RSL flashed danger in the 24th when Luis Gil, set free by Robbie Findley, pulled the ball back after driving down the left wing and forced a punch save by San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch from 12 yards.
Wondolowski had one more first-half chance, scuffing a volley off Sam Cronin’s looping ball in the 35th minute.
San Jose built a jury-rigged front line without injured forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, pairing Wondolowski and new acquisition Fucito. Harden, picked up in the Re-Entry Draft, stepped in at right back after Dan Gargan – another newcomer – was held out with a strained quadriceps.
Real Salt Lake came to Northern California with a lineup depleted by injury as well. Playmaking maestro Javier Morales was unavailable, replaced by just-signed former Quake midfielder Khari Stephenson. With defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert hurt and Jamison Olave traded over the winter, holdover right back Beltran anchored a line with Kenny Mansally, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler.
San Jose next host New York on March 10. Real Salt Lake travel to D.C. United on March 9.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Álvaro Saborío||That's what a DP does: He finishes. Big Tico got on the end of the business for RSL when it counted.|
|2||Joao Plata||Mighty mite played his role perfectly: came off the bench and created a huge spark for RSL.|
|3||Kyle Beckerman||In his 300th MLS appearance, RSL captain was the calm amid the storm as Quakes surged forward.|