Clarence Goodson and Chris Wondolowski were on hand to watch the end of Jaime Penedo’s World Cup dreams. The least the Panamanian goalkeeper could do was return the favor in MLS play.
With San Jose needing a win to have any realistic hope of making the playoffs, the Earthquakes’ pair of US internationals led a frantic charge against the LA Galaxy on Sunday. But the Galaxy’s Penedo – who was in net as a pair of American stoppage-time goals knocked Panama out of World Cup qualifying last week – would not allow anything to get past him, holding the Quakes to a 0-0 draw.
“I thought our guys were fantastic,” Quakes coach Mark Watson told reporters at the StubHub Center. “They left every single thing on the field. They had a bunch of great chances. Their keeper made some great saves tonight, and we’ve got a very disappointed locker room.”
At this point, to earn a postseason berth San Jose needs to beat FC Dallas next Saturday, then have Vancouver beat Colorado. The tricky part? The Quakes must also outscore the Rapids by at least 13 goals on the day to advance on a tiebreaker.
(In case you’re wondering, the MLS record for goals in a game is eight. San Jose’s franchise best in league play is six, a feat accomplished in 1996 and ’99.)
Penedo was credited with four saves, but two nearly identical instances were especially crushing for the Quakes, with the keeper diving to his right to deflect a header ticketed for the back post. In the 27th minute, Penedo sprang to deny Steven Lenhart from 11 yards off of Shea Salinas corner kick. Thirteen minutes later, Penedo was at it again, turning aside Wondolowski’s attempt from a Lenhart cross.
“I thought [Penedo] was excellent,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “He’s been excellent ever since he came in [to LA, in August]. It’s just unfortunate. I wish we could have gotten one. . . . I tried snapping it down. I didn’t catch it full, but it’s definitely still a very good save.”
Unable to secure a breakthrough in the first half, the Quakes steadily shed caution after the break. Walter Martinez came on for Rafael Baca at the hour mark. Alan Gordon joined Lenhart and Wondolowski, reuniting the power trio that proved so unstoppable last year. Mike Fucito saw his first regular-season action since May 25 in Watson’s final throw of the dice.
“We knew we had to be smart about the way we approached the game,” Watson said. “If you go too aggressive, throw too much forward too early and they score, then you’ve really dug yourself a hole. . . . To keep the Galaxy at bay and have a bunch of chances, I think it’s a fantastic performance from the guys. I thought we deserved a little bit better.”
The Quakes still face one final must-win match before next weekend’s impossible quest. San Jose hosts Guatemalan side Heredia in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday. With a simple win, the Quakes would advance to next year’s knockout rounds.
“It’s still the same,” Wondolowski said of the team’s mindset for Wednesday. “We know we need to get a win and we’re going to go out and give everything that we have. That’s definitely not going to change. That never changes.”