COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Chris Wondolowski’s record-breaking hat trick helped the San Jose Earthquakes to an easy 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night while helping San Jose take a step closer to the Supporters' Shield on an unseasonably brisk evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Wondolowski’s three goals helped him break San Jose’s franchise record for all-time goals scored, and also helped the Earthquakes move six points above Sporting Kansas City for the Supporters Shield with two games to go, although Sporting plays Columbus Sunday afternoon and have three games left on their schedule. The win did, however, clinch the top spot in the Western Conference playoffs for San Jose.
Marvin Chávez’s goal 95 seconds into the match along with Wondolowski’s simple 11th-minute finish allowed the Quakes to start fast and never look back. The win pushed San Jose to a league-high 64 points on the year, matching a club record for points in a season, and the Earthquakes also tied a club-record with their 19th win of the season. The win also officially sealed San Jose as the top seed in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the 9-19-4 Rapids, who were eliminated from playoff contention mid-week, struggled defensively against the Earthquakes’ fire-powered trio of Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, who started together for the first time all season.
On a brutally cold night in suburban Denver that even included some pre-game snow flurries, the Earthquakes wasted no time in warming up the scoreboard. On Sam Cronin’s second minute free kick, Rapids defender Marvell Wynne and Wondolowski both went up for a header that deflected out to Chávez, who whipped in a hard strike from 18 yards out for his second goal of the season.
San Jose doubled their advantage on the counter-attack less than 10 minutes later. Rafael Baca sprinted upfield along the left wing and centered for Wondolowski, who chested home for his 23rd goal of the season and a 2-0 Earthquakes lead.
The Rapids came close to getting on the board at the half-hour mark with a Luis Zapata shot and Omar Cummings’ 33rd minute blast, but both missed the target and the visitors remained firmly in control at halftime.
On the other side of the break, Wondolowski put the game to bed with a 51st-minute finish to make it 3-0. San Jose's star forward gathered the ball at the top of the box after a failed clearance from Wynne and unleashed a shot that deflected off of Rapids defender Drew Moor and into the net.
Finally, in the 84th minute, Wondolowski capped his scoring with a clean finish just inside the penalty box. The goal was Wondolowski's 25th of the season, toppng Ronald Cerritos for the franchise all-time scoring record with his 62nd goal as an Earthquake while also moving Wondolowski within two goals of Roy Lassiter’s all-time MLS-best 27 goals in 1996.
Andre Akpan scored a consolation second-half injury time penalty kick for the Rapids, and on the penalty, San Jose’s Jason Hernandez received a straight red card for a challenge from behind, automatically suspending him for the Quakes’ next game.
The Earthquakes and Rapids will both a couple of weeks off, but San Jose return to action for an October 21 clash against the LA Galaxy (1 pm ET, Galavisión), while the Rapids will travel to The Home Depot to take on Chivas USA on October 20 (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Wondolowski||No surprise here. San Jose's star forward struck for three and is now two goals away from Roy Lassiter's mark.|
|2||Steven Lenhart||SJ's big forward pressed and pressed and pressed some more, even making key interventions on defense.|
|3||Marvin Chávez||The Quakes' speedy winger notched a Goal of the Week candidate and an assist. Job well done.|