Nothing "Friendly" About It: Club America Outlasts San Jose, 2-1
In a game with two red cards, eight yellows, an ejected manager, and a crunching mascot-on-fan tackle after the final whistle blew, the scoreline in this Guiness International Champions Cup friendly was almost an afterthought.
As for the match proper, Clarence Goodson's 23rd minute opener was undone by eerily similar arrows from distance from Andres Andrade and Francisco "Cachis" Rivera in the second half to give the visitors a deserved win and 3 points in the ICC group play standings.
Club America Assistant Carlos Turrubiates said through an interpreter after the game that "With [Club] America there are no friendlies" and San Jose gaffer Dom Kinnear echoed the sentiment, saying his players wanted the win and that the mood seemed to turn after a particular incident in the 15th minute.
The early goings were about as casual as the stakes, with the first meaningful chance not manifesting until the 11th minute after Andrade skipped into a wide part of the box and tested Quakes keeper Bryan Meredith's cool with a hard low shot. The Monmouth grad got behind it but spilled it towards Dario Benedetto, whose cheeky backheel towards goal didn't quite manage threaten to beat Meredith.
Without much possession developing either way, most of the notable opportunities came from dead ball situations. In the 14th minute, when Leandro Barrera was left in a heap 25 yards out, Matias Perez-Garcia struck a curling ball that had the keeper beat, only for his effort to clang off the near post.
The visitors had their own chance a minute later when Clarence Goodson pulled Benedetto down from behind in a move indistinguishable from an American Football tackle, sending the America striker to the hospital with an ugly ankle injury. It took more than 4 minutes to get Benedetto off the pitch and separate the two shoving sides, with San Jose's Spanish speakers looking particularly peeved. The resultant set piece deflected away from goal, however, and the primary result was an aura of bad feeling between the two sides.
The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute, when Quincy Amarikwa won a corner kick after a nice bit of holdup work from Mark Sherrod. Perez-Garcia lifted the ball in the area towards Amarikwa, the Quakes midseason acquisition, who powered it on goal only for it to be tipped away by Hugo Gonzalez and cleared off the line by Osmar Mares. Clarence Goodson, hanging around in the area, nodded in the rebound for the opener, putting the Quakes on the front foot despite not necessarily dominating the proceedings.
With the goal, both sides settled significantly on the ball, with the Mexican side beginning to display its superior technique and elegance. While leaving themselves a bit open to route one counterattacks, they heaped pressure on the hosts from wide areas, beginning to look like inevitable goalscorers. They were very nearly rewarded when Goodson wrestled Andrade to the ground in the box without so much as encountering the ball, but no penalty was given. Perez-Garcia made way for Tommy Thompson after a planned 30-minute run-out, while Mike Fucito went on for Quincy Amarikwa who appeared to have a shoulder injury after a bruising 45 minute shift.
The game, already testy, boiled over in first half stoppage time when Erik Pimentel bundled into Sanna Nyassi with an ugly challenge. When Mares came over to help him up, Nyassi slapped his hands away and kicked at him with his spikes. Captain Paolo Goltz rushed over and decked the Gambian just moments after he got back to his feet, and the brawl was on. Both sides undoubtably had more than one player who would've received a booking in isolation, but after the scrum had been adequately separated by the referee and his assistants, Goltz and Nyassi were shown straight reds and the rest of the pack were spared.
Kinnear, interviewed by Fox Sports after the first half whistle blew, declared after an uncomfortably long pause that Goltz and Nyassi were acting like "silly people."
The second half brought with it wholesale changes for the Quakes with only Thompson and Meredith staying on alongside a deeply makeshift back line. Aside from a smattering of San Jose's second-team regulars, two trialists suited up and played out the rest of the game: Mathieu Coutadeur, a 29-year-old French creative midfielder, and Matheus Silva, an 18-year-old Brazilian holding midfielder (played at center back) committed to playing college soccer in the States.
Thompson got the second half going with an breathtaking settle and control that he turned on goal, but couldn't manage to trouble the keeper. The Quakes homegrown player seemed to single-handedly stoke the fire of intensity in his team, although the Captain's armband surprisingly went to 21-year-old Fatai Alashe above, amongst others, veteran Khari Stephenson. Adam Jahn, replacing Sherrod up top, came in ready to do battle with any and all challengers, winning a few decent aerial duels but picking up a yellow not long after Stanford-teammate JJ Koval impertinently spilled Mares with little love lost.
Thompson was the source of danger again in the 72nd minute when he drove in from the left flank, shrugged off one marker, and nutmegged another with a pinpoint pass to the feet of Jahn to put him one-on-one with the keeper at point blank range, only for the striker to pass his attempt wide in an oddly-familiar miss for the target man.
A turnover at the other end of the pitch led to the equalizer shortly thereafter in the 76th minute. The ball was squared to Andrade in acres of space, who stuck an arrow in the bottom left corner through a wide open lane to the goal from about 25 out, leaving Meredith with simply too much ground to cover to turn it away. The visitors sensed blood in the water after their breakthrough, sending volley after volley on frame, going just over in the 78th, and forcing Paulo Renato into a cool header to cut out danger in the 82nd.
The second would come in similar fashion in the 83rd, as Coutadeur tried to work the ball out of the back to Koval, only for the 22-year-old's pocket to be picked by the omni-present Quintero. The Colombian then squared it wide right to Rivera in even more space than Andrade had enjoyed, setting up a dagger finish from 25 yards out in the channel to the bottom left corner.
As the game wound down, Kinnear was seen headed away from the pitch towards the locker room without a red card being shown. After the match, Kinnear said "I think I was going to get sent to the locker room by the referee so I just beat him to the punch," although the official scorers sheet did list his expulsion as a red-card offense.
Undaunted, the home side tried gamely in the dying seconds to search for an equalizer that would've forced immediate penalties. Alashe got free down to the line in the box and put in a hard, low cross that forced Gonzalez to put it out for a corner with his feet. The resultant corner found the Michigan State product after a few deflections with the ball at his feet, dead center, about 6 yards out, with a flatfooted keeper and defender to beat, only to see it blocked at the line. The hosts would get one last shot in the form of an odd free kick after Jahn had boxed out Gonzalez on an aerial duel, but the resulting effort from Stephenson got quite a lot closer to scoring on the goal on the videoboard than the actual goal itself shortly before the final whistle blew.
As if the game wasn't strange enough as is, a Club America fan ran out on the pitch to get signatures from some of his idols, well in front of plodding security officers. What he couldn't see, however, was the Earthquakes' mascot "Q" in a dead sprint towards him. When he reached the pitch invader, Q laid him out with a crushing form tackle. The brutality of the takedown clearly bothered the CA players who thought the fan could've been escorted off more politely, and a final shoving match was instigated between them and the costumed man as bemused Quakes players watched on from the other half of the pitch.
The result puts Club America in a position to possibly win the cup as they take on Manchester United at the weekend, while the Quakes face the Red Devils next week with a lot less on the line. San Jose instead will focus back on the MLS table, which will be impacted greatly by their Friday night contest against LA Galaxy that will also serve as Steven Gerrard's MLS debut.
After the match, the injury report was relatively inconclusive, with Benedetto still awaiting medical checks and Quincy Amarikwa working with a trainer. Mike Fucito, too, said afterwards that he had tweaked his right hamstring.