SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes got their goal in the first 15 minutes, then held on for dear life in the final 30 while down a man, and emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Philaelphia Union at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday night.
Shea Salinas scored the winning goal early on and the Quakes weathered the ejection of Rafael Baca in the 57th minute to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while the Union failed to gain ground on the three-way log-jam for first place in the East.
Salinas, in his first start in a month, was the main creator for the hosts, nearly scoring twice in the first 10 minutes. In the 15th, Sam Cronin played a beautiful chip from just past midfield to the Salinas, who made a well-timed run into the box and found himself all alone after Sheanon Williams fell down. The speedy winger took one touch and volleyed it past Zac MacMath for a 1-0 lead.
San Jose kept the pressure going and nearly added a second at the half-hour mark off another Philadelphia defensive miscue. Jeff Parke mis-hit a clearance from the center of the box, and the ball fell to Chris Wondolowski, who rifled a shot on goal that was barely tipped by MacMath. The loose ball was just out of the reach of Alan Gordon, who nearly put himself in position to capitalize with a back-post run.
The game took its most dramatic turn near the hour mark when Baca was sent off after seeing his second yellow card. The Quakes midfielder went in hard on Conor Casey on a 50-50 ball, going studs first into the Philly striker and was subsequently shown his walking papers by official Fotis Bazakos.
The man disadvantage didn’t seem to rattle the Quakes, however, who kept pressing cautiously. They thought they had a claim for a penalty kick in the 64th minute when Salinas put in a cross that appeared to glance off the hand off Philly midfielder Brian Carroll in the box, but Bazakos wouldn’t blow his whistle and TV replays were inconclusive.
Philly then began to surge forward with more confidence, pressing their advantage. Their best chance for an equalizer came in the 84th minute when Williams headed a corner kick off the post. Quakes ’keeper Jon Busch then made three crucial saves in the final minutes to preserve the victory as the Union surged forward for a tying goal that never came.
With the win, San Jose improve to 37 points, tied with Vancouver for seventh in the Western Conference. They next host the ‘Caps on Sept. 14.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, stay on 39 points and remain fourth place in the East, four points behind three clubs tied for first. They next host Houston that same evening.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Shea Salinas||Kept the Quakes attacking humming on the evening, scoring a stylish goal and nearly getting another|
|2||Sam Cronin||Ably patrolled the center of the park, making some timely recoveries and contributing with good distribution, including his assist on the winner|
|3||Jon Busch||Didn't have much to do in the first half, but made three crucial saves with the Quakes down a man and holding on for dear life|