First-year San Jose Earthquakes starter David Bingham making big plays to keep playoff hopes alive

SAN JOSE, Calif.—David Bingham has been credited with 101 saves this season for the San Jose Earthquakes, but it was a play that can’t be found in the boxscore which saved the Quakes’ Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs aspirations.

Bingham made four saves during San Jose's 1-1 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps on October 3. He didn’t receive any statistical credit for leaping out in the 94th minute to break up a 2-on-none breakaway after teammate Anibal Godoy slipped while trying to deliver a last-ditch ball into the Whitecaps’ penalty area from a free kick.

Vancouver right back Steven Beitashour delivered a sliding interception to free Cristian Techera, who in turn played a first-touch pass into space for Kekuta Manneh to track down, with Godoy and JJ Koval futilely chasing the 20-year-old Gambian speedster.

“We’re trying to put pressure on them, and then all of a sudden, the kick goes in their favor and they’re running the other way,” said coach Dominic Kinnear, after that game. “You almost don’t want to look at the play develop.”

He would have missed something impressive. Bingham stood poised, roughly 10 yards off his line, when Manneh’s third dribble proved a bit heavy. The former Cal All-American sprang into action: sprinting into a full slide, Bingham got both hands on the ball moments before Manneh could intervene, with the rebound scooped up by San Jose's Tommy Thompson.

“I saw them coming down, and I knew we needed to make the stop on them, just keep the point intact,” Bingham said. “I was just getting back, and I saw a bit of a heavy touch and thought that was my best chance to go on and stop their counter. … I saw him coming down, and knew I had to stay big. If he was going to beat me, he was going to beat me, but I didn’t want to beat myself in that situation. I don’t want to give him an easy goal. So I stood up, and I saw my chance, and I took it.”

Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski described his reaction to the play as “run back and hope” that the Whitecaps somehow couldn’t find a game-winner – and steal a critical point at the death, with San Jose fighting desperately to stay above the red line.

“It’s so nice to have David back there,” Wondolowski said. “He’s so quick. Great job coming off his line to save that. He’s very good at breakaways; he’s a very good goalkeeper. We owe him that one.”

It was a play emblematic of the choice San Jose made this offseason, when veteran Jon Busch, a starter for more than four years, was let go to make way for Bingham. Busch, 39, eventually landed with Chicago, while the 25-year-old Bingham has played every league minute for the Quakes – after making just five regular-season appearances in his first four MLS campaigns.

Bingham’s 101 saves are good for fourth in the league, but he actually tries to snuff out chances before they require a goal-line grab. It’s a strategy with higher rates of risk and reward, one that has sometimes shaken up the Quakes, but it proved a point-saver against Vancouver.

Regardless of what happens in San Jose's final two regular-season games, Bingham seems set for a sustained run as the team's No. 1 in the nets.

“I think he’s had a really good season,” Kinnear said. “It’s still a relatively young career, and as long as he’s open to improving and listening to Tim [Hanley], our goalkeepers coach, he’s only going to get better.”