SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes’ attempt at a second-half pit stop against the Vancouver Whitecaps backfired in a tremendous way Saturday.
With two San Jose players on the sidelines changing their shoes on a slick night at Buck Shaw Stadium, Vancouver took advantage behind Corey Hertzog, who delivered an equalizing goal to force Whitecaps’ a 1-1 tie.
Hertzog, making his first start of the season after impressing coach Martin Rennie in training and reserve matches, dragged a deflected Daigo Kobayashi shot to set himself up at 9 yards, and he fired home past helpless San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch in the 62nd minute.
The Quakes were livid at referee Fotis Bazakos, who did not wave defender Victor Bernardez and forward Alan Gordon back on after each player had swapped their boots and were awaiting permission to rejoin the action.
After the game, Bazakos told a pool reporter via written response that the players were barred by rule from coming back until there was a stoppage, quoting Law 4 from FIFA’s Laws of the Game, which deals with players’ equipment. Under the sub-section entitled “Infringement and Sanctions,” the last of six clauses states that “the player is only allowed to re-enter the field of play when the ball is out of play.”
The goal canceled out Chris Wondolowski’s third score of the year, a cultured 18th-minute strike that put San Jose (2-2-2) in position to move into the upper reaches of the Western Conference standings.
Instead, Vancouver (2-2-1) broke a two-game losing streak with their first road point of 2013.
Sam Cronin hit the post in second-half stoppage time, and Wondolowski’s attempt on the rebound was blocked by a Vancouver defender. Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon also came up with a critical save off a last-ditch corner kick to preserve the tie.
Vancouver had to make do without leading scorer Kenny Miller after the DP suffered a right hamstring strain Tuesday and stayed in Canada for treatment. But Rennie didn’t stop there, benching forwards Camilo and Darren Mattocks plus midfielder Gershon Koffie in favor of Hertzog, rookie Erik Hurtado and homegrown product Russell Teibert, making his 2013 debut.
Hertzog, who came in with 1 minute played this year, served as the point man in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Teibert in the center of the pitch and Hurtado -- who starred at Buck Shaw Stadium as a college player at Santa Clara -- on the right wing.
Nevertheless, it was the Quakes who looked sharp early. With Gordon making his first start of 2013 after debuting last week following surgeries this winter on his foot and hip, the Quakes’ offense finally seemed as potent as it did last year while racking up a franchise-record 72 goals.
Wondolowski began the Quakes’ goal-scoring sequence by forcing a turnover deep on Vancouver’s left flank. Shea Salinas took possession for San Jose and fed Gordon, who knocked a first-time pass to Wondolowski. The reigning league MVP set himself up with a deft left-footed trap, then curled a right-footed shot around Cannon to the only available spot, high at the near post.
The MLS’ reigning MVP now has seven career goals in six appearances against Vancouver. That’s the most goals any opponent has tallied against the Whitecaps, who have managed to hold Wondolowski off the scoresheet only once since joining the league as an expansion side in 2011.
Wondolowski, who has claimed at least a share of the league’s scoring title for three consecutive seasons, moved two goals behind current leader Mike Magee of the LA Galaxy.
Gordon almost paid dividends inside 6 minutes, delivering a lofted pass to the edge of Vancouver’s 6-yard box. Wondolowski couldn’t get a clean strike off his trap, however, and Cannon covered well for the visitors.
Vancouver’s defense had no effective response to the probing of Salinas and Justin Morrow on either wing, and the goal, when it came, was no surprise.
Rennie’s extensive changes didn’t do much in the way of sparking Vancouver’s attack in the first half; despite a 54-46 percent possession advantage, they didn’t have a shot on goal after 45 minutes. But Vancouver seemed refreshed after the break, and were creating more chances even before their bizarre power-play goal.
The Whitecaps weren’t done, either. Camilo, on as a substitute, swiveled around Dan Gargan before the Quakes defender rode him to the ground inside the penalty area, but Bazakos did not heed the visitors’ calls for a spot kick.
San Jose slotted Ty Harden in at center back in place of Jason Hernandez, held out as a precaution after taking a hard knock from goalkeeper Jon Busch last weekend in Houston. Dan Gargan replaced Harden at right back.
The Whitecaps return home after a month-long absence to host Real Salt Lake next Saturday. The Earthquakes travel to Portland on Sunday to begin a home-and-home set with the Timbers.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Wondolowski||His chemistry with Gordon remains as strong as ever, and he gave Vancouver's defenders fits all night|
|2||Joe Cannon||With Vancouver notching only two shots on target on the night, Cannon came up big to allow Vancouver to come back|
|3||Alan Gordon||Not only is San Jose's attack built in part around him, but Gordon's physical play gave the Quakes plenty of chances|