SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes’ depth might have passed its biggest milestone yet on Saturday, when the club showed that a Chris Wondolowski goal is no longer a prerequisite for winning.
While Wondolowski turned in what he considered a subpar performance against the Philadelphia Union, the Quakes continued to dominate the ball – eventually winning the possession battle 59-41 percent – and found goals in the 76th and 93rd minutes from Steven Lenhart to post a 2-1 victory.
It was San Jose’s first win without a goal from Wondolowski since June 11 of last year, when he was on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the US national team. Lenhart played the hero on that day as well, netting a hat trick and adding an assist as the Quakes dusted D.C. United, 4-2.
“Last year” seems a long time ago now, however. Saturday’s outing was another display of how much talent the 6-1-1 Quakes have on hand for 2012 – and a worrisome one for teams such as D.C., who come into Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online) knowing that shutting out Wondolowski is not enough to guarantee a result.
HIGHLIGHTS: Philadelphia 1, San Jose 2
“What you try to add to the team, especially [in] attacking players, is productivity,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said, pointing out the track record of recent acquisitions such as Marvin Chávez (six goals, four assists last year with FC Dallas), Simon Dawkins (six goals and two assists in 2011, his first year with the Quakes) and Lenhart (five goals and three assists, also in his first year with San Jose).
“These guys are productive and I think that we need that, because if Wondo ever got injured, or misses a game or I decide to not play him at some point, we need to be able to win without him," Yallop continued. "[Saturday] showed that Wondo didn’t need to score for us to win the game.”
That matters because more and more teams are gearing up to stop Wondolowski, who has 42 goals since the start of the 2010 MLS season, including eight this year. Philadelphia managed to hold him without a shot on goal, the first time that’s happened in 2012.
“Obviously, they have a very good defense,” Wondolowski said. “They came in on a -minute scoreless streak, and that wasn’t a coincidence. But I didn’t feel I had a good game. I didn’t hold the ball up well, I wasn’t creating opportunities and I wasn’t taking advantage of opportunities.”
That’s not to say Wondolowski came up empty when in terms of making to impact plays. It was his cutting pass inside Philadelphia’s penalty area that Chávez collected before spinning quickly and delivering a stinging cross in the 76th minute. Lenhart, having shed marker Carlos Valdés, hammered home a diving header at the back post for a 1-0 lead.
Wondolowski picked up a secondary assist on the play. He also forced the turnover – closing down rookie right back Raymon Gaddis – to begin the sequence.
Chávez and Lenhart hooked up again for the stoppage-time winner, which highlights something of which the Quakes are well aware: The only way to free some space around Wondolowski is by making other players so dangerous that they have to be guarded just as closely as San Jose’s star.
“It was OK for him to take the night off,” Lenhart said of Wondolowski. “Because I know he’s going to score in the next 10 games.”
And that the Quakes will be all right even if he doesn’t.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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