SAN FRANCISCO – Even before Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson and San Jose Earthquakes defender Jed Zayner tangled after the final whistle, the MLS-leading Quakes weren’t pleased by a number of events Tuesday night at Kezar Stadium.
In a US Open quarterfinal match that put the rough back in “rough and tumble,” San Jose felt they were hard done by some of the choices made by referee Yader Reyes. Seattle made a 19th-minute goal from Cordell Cato stand up for a 1-0 win and continued their quest for a fourth consecutive USOC title.
No. 1 on the list of the Quakes’ grievances was a non-call for handball in the box on an unidentified Seattle player after San Jose defender Víctor Bernárdez’s second-half stoppage-time drive was deflected out of bounds.
“To me, it was very clear: The guy made a last-ditch effort to save the goal, and it was a great save,” San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski said. “I think it was a save that [San Jose goalkeepers Jon] Busch or [David] Bingham would be proud of.”
Head coach Frank Yallop tried to take the high road regarding Reyes’ work.
“I don’t want to start sitting here [saying] the reason we didn’t win the game is to do with the referee,” Yallop said. “We couldn’t score, so I’m not going there.”
After a moment, however, Yallop added: “I thought we had a couple of calls that didn’t go our way. That’s being diplomatic.”
Bernárdez’s disputed shot was the final act of an evening in which the Quakes’ famed late-game magic could never quite be captured. With an overloaded MLS schedule, San Jose rested Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Marvin Chávez from an attack that has taken the Quakes to the league’s top spot at 10-3-3. Alan Gordon, ordinarily the club’s super sub, started up top as a lone target man.
San Jose jump-started their offense with the 53rd-minute insertion of Wondolowski and Lenhart and a change of tactics, turning to a more direct approach with crosses from either flank ticketed for Lenhart or Gordon.
The Quakes never could pierce Seattle’s defense, however, with the new center back pairing of Patrick Ianni and Zach Scott holding firm in front of goalkeeper Andrew Weber, the former Earthquake.
“There’s a lot of credit to them,” Wondolowski said. “Defensively, they’re organized. Weber had a couple good saves on us, and that’s a recipe for a shutout for them.”
Said Yallop: “We had enough chances to get on the scoresheet. We’ve had plenty of times where we’ve not had a ton of chances and we’ve won games.”
If nothing else, the outcome sets the stage for a couple of potentially fiery rematches. Thanks to MLS’ new unbalanced schedule, Seattle come to Buck Shaw Stadium on Aug. 11 and the Quakes travel to CenturyLink Field on Sept. 22.
“I’m glad I’m not going to be refereeing them,” Wondolowski said. “That’s all I have to say.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.