'Caps Draw with 'Quakes
By Jonathan Szekeres
It wasn't exactly a beautiful match last night, when the Vancouver Whitecaps and the San Jose Earthquakes did battle at Buck Shaw Stadium to a 1-1 draw. Well, it might have been beautiful from the Earthquakes' point of view, given they had endless opportunites, a slew of grade A scoring chances, and the best player on the pitch for both sides. The Whitecaps were able to salvage a point, but it was anything but inspiring.
The Earthquakes attack can be summed up in one name; Chris Wondolowski. The man who tied an MLS record with 27 goals last season, seemingly could have had that many just last night against a poor Whitecaps backline that had no idea how to contain him. Wondo got the first great chance of the match following a Daigo Kobayashi turnover near the center line at 5 minutes. Alan Gordon ended up with the ball, before lifting a ball for Wondo deep inside the box. Wondo couldn't get a good shot off though, as Joe Cannon came over to smother.
At 15 minutes, former Whitecap Shea Salinas joined in, taking a pass from Alan Gordon from about 30 yards out. Salinas then fed a Wondo with a great through ball that he took in stride, one timing his shot from just outside the box. Cannon was equal to the task, going to the ground to stop the shot.
Wondo would not be denied on the night, cracking the goose egg on just 18 minutes. Following an Alain Rochat turnover deep in the Whitecaps zone, Alan Gordon fed Wondo with a perfect touch pass in the box. Wondo, behind the backline, then placed the ball in the top right corner, opening the scoring and giving him 3 goals on the season. Scoring against the Whitecaps is nothing new for Wondo; over the past three seasons, Wondo has 7 goals against the blue and white.
The Whitecaps would earn the goal back in the second half, although we really should dole out some assists to Alan Gordon and Victor Bernardez of the Earthquakes. If you haven't seen the madness yet, then you won't believe this. Gordon and Bernardez both came off the pitch to change their boots. Speaking today, Gordon revealed he changed because his boots were bothering his foot, which he had surgery on in the off-season. Bernardez changed because he felt the playing surface at Buck Shaw was too slippery. In any case, they came off together, effectively putting the Earthquakes down two men. When they tried to return to play, they weren't allowed thanks to a rarely used rule. If players come off the pitch for equipment reasons, they have to wait for a stoppage in play to return.
So, for an extended period of time, the Whitecaps had footballs version of a two man advantage powerplay. At 63 minutes, they took advantage, with the aid of a few lucky bounces. Daigo Kobayashi found himself with the ball just outside the box. He turned and tried a shot, that was deflected off a few defenders then found Corey Hertzog behind the backline. He immediately struck the ball, which fooled a surprised Jon Busch for the 1-1 draw. Hertzog, making his first start of the year for the 'Caps, had equalized in match the 'Caps really had no business being in.
It all came down to stoppage time, when the Earthquakes really stepped on the gas. At the 3rd minute of extras, Jon Busch's goal kick found the head of Alan Gordon near the box. Gordon's header found a streaking Sam Cronin on the right side, who looked to have a sure goal. His shot, however, rattled off the framework before the rebound found Chris Wondolowski wide open in the box. As he prepared to shoot, Joe Cannon came diving back into the play, and YP Lee calmly stepped in the shooting lane. Wondo's shot was blocked then cleared, much to the chagrin of the Earthquake faithful.
The Earthquakes kept coming, with one last offensive spurt coming with almost no time left in the match. Following a corner kick (The Earthquakes had a ridiculous six in the final nine minutes), Defender Dan Gargan got a header off that looked like it would be the winner. However, Joe Cannon played hero for Vancouver with a miraculous goal line save. That would be it, as the Whitecaps would steal one point on their three match road swing with a 1-1 draw with the Earthquakes.
Joe Cannon. He was unbelievable all night, providing the defensive backbone the Whitecaps needed. The backline appeared to take a night off, but Cannon rose to the occasion, stoning his former team on every shot except for one. If not for Cannon, Chris Wondolowski would have had a career night.
I don't like picking on anyone, but Brad Rusin had serious difficulties with Wondo. It's not easy feat taking on a elite sniper like Wondolowski, but that was the job Rusin was assigned. His play has been solid, but this was a dramatic drop-off. The 'Caps do have depth at Center Back, so if Rusin struggles like this against Alvaro Saborio and Real Salt Lake next week, expect to see some changes.
The 'Caps as a whole were not fun to watch last night. The creativity in mid simply wasn't there, while the Earthquakes dazzled the 'Caps backline with deft touch passes and quick ball movement. With Darren Mattocks resting and Kenny Miller injured, it took a two man advantage and a lucky deflection to break through Jon Busch. I wouldn't exactly call that an accomplishment.
Man of the Match?
Joe Cannon, for obvious reasons.