Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas: Referee Stars in Ugly 0-0 Draw
It's a cliché in refereeing that the less you notice the referee, the better a job they're doing. Unfortunately for Baldomero Toledo, he took center stage in the 0-0 draw that doubled as a reenactment of a Red Wedding that left just 19 men on the pitch when the final whistle blew.
Mark Sherrod was sent off in the 53rd minute for clipping FC Dallas keeper Dan Kennedy's head while attempting to jump over him, JeVaughn Watson was sent off in the 75th for grazing Cordell Cato as Cato tackled a ball away from him, and JJ Koval was sent off in the 87th for perhaps the first truly bookable offense when he followed through on a 50-50 ball. Regardless of the legitimacy of any of the three decisions, they put a major dent into the quality of the play on the field, led to 40 straight minutes of boos from the crowd, and a refusal from either coach to comment explicilty after the game in order to avoid being fined.
Storylines abound prior even to the first whistle, with Fatai Alashe surreptitiously flying back early from national team duty in France, at Dom Kinnear's request, so that he could solidify a Quakes midfield that was pulled apart last weekend in Toronto. Mark Sherrod, a year removed from an ACL tear, made his first start in blue and black up top instead of Adam Jahn. Otherwise, Kinnear trotted out more or less his first-choice XI. FC Dallas threw in a wrinkle of their own, deploying stud playmaker Mauro Diaz on the right flank in a flat 4-4-2.
Alashe's first touch certainly looked like a man working through jetlag, missing his target on an uncontested, on-the-floor 10-yarder in the 2nd minute. For much of the first 30 minutes, the rest of the Quakes didn't look much sharper, although they defended well and primarily held the visitors to set-piece opportunities. Tesho Akindele, in particular, seemed to trouble the Quakes back line up top, using his size-speed combination to play 1-2s and force cool-headed interventions. Victor Ulloa, sitting deeper in a double pivot, was the playmaker throughout, hitting delicate through-balls and combining with Akindele such as in the 7th minute when he drove a layoff from the young Canadian just over the bar. He also put Michael Barrios through on goal in the 20th, forcing a beautiful, technically-sound save from David Bingham on the resulting Barrios effort from a wide area.
Diaz, their typical danger man, was kept reasonably quiet from the run of play by Alashe and left-back Jordan Stewart, but he did manage an excellent effort in the 10th minute off a set piece that curled just wide from about 25 yards out. The first officiating intervention came immediately after, when Marvell Wynne went in shoulder-to-shoulder with Barrios and a stunning, soft yellow card was produced. The Quakes would also benefit shortly thereafter, with a sensible yellow assessed to Ulloa for pulling Matias Pérez-García to the turf on a counter.
San Jose would not, however, manage to produce much from any set-piece opportunities and instead forced an unusually high number of turnovers from wingers Cato and Shea Salinas via pressing, leading to breakaways and chances. Sherrod in particular got close to the end of crosses from such counters, but was unable to bury any.
As the half hour mark approached, the visitors seemed to pile more and more pressure on the Quakes defense, forcing nervy clearances and Bingham to step off his line more than once to cut out the danger. The only real letoff was former Earthquake Atiba Harris, who did little to endear himself during his time in San Jose, hoofing one into the video board from the corner of the 18 after being what appeared to be roughly four yards offsides.
Finally, by the 28th minute, the hosts found their feet with a nice move up the right flank, keyed by Pérez-García and involving Cato and Wynne, only to be put out for a corner. The resulting service was punched away but fell to the feet of Jordan Stewart, who spectacularly mishit the volley, barely getting any contact with it at all. As the Quakes recollected the bal from the clearance, Cato pumped in a vicious cross that played through the danger area, inches away from Clarence Goodson and Sherrod, out of reach of an unsettled Kennedy, but with no shot on goal to show for it. On the front foot now, Alashe drove a lay-off over the bar as the Quakes appeared to be zeroing in on an inevitable goal.
Their finest move in possession came in the 32nd minute when Stewart burst up the left flank, shrugging off tackles, laying it off for Salinas on the outside, who squared it towards Alashe in the middle. Alashe switched the ball to Wynne, who sprung Pérez-García down the touch line for the Argentine to cut it back to Chris Wondolowski in the middle, only for Dan Kennedy to step to it just in time to snuff out the danger. The sequence appeared to prove the Quakes capable of playing beautiful football, but like every other move on the day, ultimately to no end.
Before the half, Dallas would manage only a few forays forward, only for Goodson to cut them out with the solidity of a brick wall. Only once in possession in an attacking area, the hosts formed two banks of 4 and completely sucked the air out of the Dallas move. The frustration appeared to mount, as Michel was booked for an intentional foul on the counter and Diaz was thrown in for good measure for dissent, a portend for future sensitivities of Toledo.
The last few seconds of the half contained in them yet more controversy, as Wondo was first knocked over in the box with no call, and not long afterwards Salinas was put through towards the end line and clearly tripped by Harris, only for the referee to apparently rule the trip not flagrant enough to merit a spot-kick. The Quakes would get a final corner, from which Pérez-García found a surprisingly-open Victor Bernárdez, only for the Honduran to lose his feet and bounce it over the bar from point-blank range.
The second half started with a few decent forays forward by the visitors, but had hardly gotten going before the first red of the game marred it in the 54th. Sherrod, running onto a cross from Cordell Cato, was easily beaten to the ball by Kennedy and attempted to jump over him. Kennedy, originally flat on the ground, poked his head back up and caught the business end of Sherrod's studs, gashing his head painfully. Toledo quickly showed Sherrod a straight red. A shocked and confused stadium howled, and manager Kinnear could barely contain himself on the touch line. Toledo, asked by a pool reporter after the match, said simply that the incident was ruled "violent conduct" and that it was deemed intentional. After the match, General Manager John Doyle indicated he was interested in an appeal, and Sherrod himself said that he hoped the team would pursue one.
Five minutes later, an apoplectic Pérez-García, still swearing at Toledo for his decision, was pulled off by Kinnear before he was shown his own red. In his place was Adam Jahn, who gave the Quakes a target forward to relieve pressure and let the midfield sit a bit deeper. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja responded by putting pacy and dangerous Fabian Castillo on for Michel, moving Diaz back to the middle.
Undaunted, the Quakes pushed forward and were fairly composed in possession for being a man down. Cato dribbled his mark on the flank on a few occasions and Jahn contributed some effective hold-up play and pressing. Most notably, Cato put in an excellent piece of service in the 74th minute off a set piece that deflected just slightly off of Jordan Stewart and in doing so may have put it just wide of Wondolowski's reach, who couldn't redirect it into a wide-open net. On the other end, Bingham and Goodson made more than a few key interventions to cut out danger before it made it to the back of the net.
Then in the 75th minute, with the boos still ringing through the stadium because of the incident 20 minutes prior, the game would turn again. After a Quakes corner was half cleared, JeVaughn Watson turned upfield with the ball at his feet and tried to pass it before a sliding Cato could snatch it away. Cato won the ball and Watson's follow-through caught him on the thigh. Perhaps a caution, to be sure, but the crowd was left dazed and stunned more than anything when a second straight red was produced. Cato was in a fair amount of pain and stayed on the ground for some time. He attempted to play through the knock but was sacrificed just minutes later for JJ Koval, who was asked to play unfamiliar right-midfield.
The set-piece earned by the red card, when it was finally taken, gave the Quakes yet another clear chance on goal as Wondo dove for it and headed not far wide. Now 10v10, the match was as open as ever and Salinas won yet another turnover on the press that he simply couldn't connect into a chance via Stewart. Goodson played a straight ball out of the back that Jahn delicately headed on to Wondolowski, who in turn attempted to pop a header over Kennedy. The effort had the keeper beat, but went just wide of the post.
Two minutes later, in the 87th minute, the substitute Koval followed through on a challenge on a 50-50 ball, studs up, and Toledo didn't hesitate to send off his third. There was little argument to be had with the decision, but the frustration with the chaos of the game had clearly caught up with coaches, fans, and players. For the last 7 minutes of the match, Kinnear simply attempted to see out the whistle with his team's health and the single point in tact, sending Shaun Francis on for a late cameo after a gruesome jaw injury earlier this season and signalling for Wondolowski to drop deep into right midfield. The result saw the game out, but pretty much ended either team really attempting to play it.
The Quakes will be back in action June 16th for a US Open match at home against their affiliate Sacramento Republic, with an MLS match against Seattle Sounders in Seattle to follow on the 20th. They currenltly sit in 8th place in the Western Conference with games in hand on the 6th and 7th place teams on 19 points.