Dynamo Fail to Spoil Kinnear's Return
Dominic Kinnear would never admit to any sentimentality about coaching against the team he helmed for nearly a decade, but this one surely tasted sweeter than usual as his San Jose Earthquakes beat the Houston Dynamo, 1-0. An opportunistic Adam Jahn header off a set piece and a specular penalty save by David Bingham were enough to overcome lack of quality in possession, a mounting injury report, and the fatigue of playing on short rest in hot and humid conditions.
Set up in the now-familiar 4-1-4-1 formation, Jahn got the start up top in place of injured Innocent and left-back Jordan Stewart made his much-anticipated first appearance for the club all year, with the rest of the lineup unchanged. Although this allowed them to match the five midfielders Houston sent out, they sat very deep and were more than content to play for the counter or set piece opportunities.
The result in the early going wasn't easy on the eye, with neither team really finding their feet in the match. The hosts had quite a lot more of the possession, but the chances on both ends seemed to come primarily from set pieces. Chris Wondolowski got a good early look off of a free kick screen that resembled Steve Kerr's inbounding plays, but couldn't volley it on frame. Houston got a series of corners around the 15th minute that they took with a mix of approaches and put some unnerving pressure on the Quakes back line, but the final (and best) look was headed over by defender Raul Rodriguez. Although the line held, it looked more and more vulnerable as keeper David Bingham and defender Victor Bernardez repeatedly miscommunicated, including in the 20th minute when Bingham punched at an aerial challenge and knocked into Bernardez's head instead, leaving the big Honduran in a heap although ultimately able to carry on.
Just six minutes later, San Jose fans had their hearts in their throats again as Ricardo Clark flew in high to a challenge with Fatai Alashe and kneed the rookie in the back hard enough that he crumpled and had to be helped off the field. While Clark was clearly apologetic, he rightly received a booking, and Kinnear sent on J.J. Koval, hoping to limit any potential damage from losing his best central midfielder.
The rest of the half continued in labored form, with a few half chances spurned but primarily tough tackling. The Quakes had one noteworthy moment, In the 36th minute, a messy sequence from open play led to a messy sequence from the resultant kick. While the Quakes continued to sit deep, Nyassi and Jahn each picked a rare occasion to press and generated some pressure that might presage things to come.
The second half brought with it greater pressure from the hosts, who forced Bingham into a spectacular far-reaching save to his right within a minute of the whistle. Houston dominated possession and pulled the San Jose midfield apart.
Then, in the 54th minute, out of nothing, the set-piece specialists pulled the Quakes ahead. Salinas put a hand on the ball for a free kick and within a flash of him releasing it Perez-Garcia whipped it in quickly, catching the Dynamo defense off-guard, and an unmarked Jahn powered a header into the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
Just three minutes later the script would churn back and forth once again as the Dynamo pushed into the box from the right flank and were awarded a shockingly soft penalty when Bingham was ruled to have taken down Will Bruin without getting the ball. Giles Barnes struck what was actually a fairly good penalty low and to the right, but Bingham had a beat on it and managed to pushed it behind. The save clearly energized the team and took the wind out of Houston's sails.
Shortly thereafter, Nyassi won a ball on the break in a flash and his attempted field-switching pass was hoofed nowhere near any dangerous area, including a short through lob to an onrushing Adam Jahn. For that incident, and ones like it, he became the first tactical sub off in the 64th for Cordell Cato, returning to his native right wing position in quite a while. The substitution looked wise, as seven minutes later the Quakes sustained possession in the attacking third for the first time all match, finally finding themselves on the front foot.
For the final quarter hour, the Quakes continued to ruggedly defend set pieces, and Perez-Garcia tracked back deeper than he has all year, presumably in support of Koval, who was adequate as a defender but offered little ball control in possession. After exerting himself even more than usual on short rest, he was sacrificed in the 83rd minute for Tommy Thompson, who Kinnear clearly sees as a central attacking midfielder, and who played a similar role of providing an outlet from the besieged defense.
While there were in all about a half dozen shots across the Quakes bow in the dying minutes, none ended up troubling Bingham, thanks in particular to essential interventions by Bernardez and Wynne. The real (potential) story of the final seconds was Jordan Stewart appearing to reaggravate his calf injury, but with no substitutes available, he continued on, and retained some mobility if a bit hobbled.
This Friday, San Jose will look to keep its good away form up against Colorado in Denver. The Rapids are coming off quality draws on the road against New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy, and have twice the rest of the visitors. As it stands, the Quakes are in 5th place in the Western Confrence and Colorado is pulling up the rear.