Earthquakes Get Snowed In By New England Revolution
Much like the Boston spring, the New England Revolution took far too long to arrive this year.
The San Jose Earthquakes' bad luck was that they showed up before the former and after the latter, losing 2-1 in a miserable spitting snowstorm in freezing Foxborough, MA. Reigning MVP Lee Nyguen's return from injury ignited the hosts' dormant attack, whose two goals from Kelyn Rowe were enough to weather a Chris Wondolowski penalty and a second-half flurry from the visitors en route to their first win of the year.
Dominic Kinnear sent his men out in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, with the only changes in the starting XI due to changes in availability. Trying to emulate what has been working this season, the clear instruction was to sit deep and counter-attack at speed when the opportunities presented themselves. New England coach Jay Heaps made the choice look naïve, with his side pressing high and pushing possesion into the attacking third at will. He also managed to effectively mark playmaker Matias Perez-Garcia out of the game.
While the Quakes managed to defend with a bit of strength, the complete inability to possess the ball or move it forward meant the pressure never let up. The back line was put on notice in the 10th minute when Rowe's cross sliced through the box and was nearly finished off Daigo Kobayashi. Keeper David Bingham stayed true to form, with solid shot-stopping and sweeper-keeping countered by poor command of his area and shaky decisionmaking. Left-back Shaun Francis was skinned repeatedly, and was the primary culprit in the 21st minute when he gave up possession cheaply, tracked back marking no one in particular, and had Rowe's long-range strike deflect off his face and into the back of the net for the Revolution's first goal of 2015.
Aside from a few feeble forays forward from Marvell Wynne and Innocent Emeghara, New England remained in command, and their dominance paid off once again in the 37th minute as Rowe pushed in a diving header from a deliciously taken set piece. Down 2-0, the Quakes finally started to get a bit more proactive, and had a bit more of the ball for the remainder of the half, but nothing came of it.
The second half kickoff brought with it two immediate changes and a complete shift in tone. Kinnear pulled off the completely ineffectual Sanna Nyassi and JJ Koval, sending on Adam Jahn and Shea Salinas in their place. Both were marked improvements in individual performance, but they also facilitated a switch to a 4-1-4-1, with Wondolowski dropping into the midfield alongside Perez-Garcia, which allowed for much better angles and creativity in attack. Jahn bullied the New England defense and opened up space behind him. Salinas looked the part of his old self, playing in quality crosses and running right at defenders. Wondolowski, completely isolated in the first half, looked dangerous and unpredictable as a deeper man. Emeghara's pace and dribbling kept the Revs back line honest, but never ultimately built to anything.
Then, in the 62nd minute, the Quakes were rewarded with a clear (if lucky) penalty decision when Goodson was clipped down moving away from goal at the very top of the box off a corner. Wondolowski rushed towards the spot, cooly buried the kick, and ran the ball right back to the center circle in trademark competitive impatience.
While New England got forward on a few counters led by Charlie Davies, Bingham cut out through-ball after through-ball and showed off what a young athletic keeper can do if he keeps his head. A few more defensvie errors from Shaun Francis and Victor Bernardez were compensated for, and no real opportunities materialized as the Quakes grew into the game more and more. Bingham suffered a scary moment where he knocked heads with Clarence Goodson in a miscommunicated attempt at clearance, but was up quickly enough afterwards and saw the game out.
For the last ten minutes, the Quakes seemed able to push the ball up the pitch at will, and won corner after corner, but didn't quite manage to get any shots on goal. Salinas put through a fast and teasing cross that nearly found Adam Jahn's head on the counter in the 89th. A minute into stoppage time, the ball fell to Wondo's feet at the top of the circle but he couldn't find a clean shot for it. Two minutes later, he found a clear lane and uncorked a curling missile from 25 yards out but keeper Bobby Shuttleworth managed to get two hands behind it and knock it away. At the last gasp, Perez-Garcia put in a final corner that bounced around eventually to an unmarked Jean-Baptise PIerazzi who couldn't quite turn it in to goal from a difficult angle. The resulting goal kick saw the Revs out to the final whistle and their first win of the campaign.
The Quakes return home next weekend to face Real Salt Lake, and anticipate welcoming at least Tommy Thompson and Fatai Alashe, both on international duty, back into to the fold. Jordan Stewart, Paulo Renato, and Steven Lenhart are all questionable, with Mark Sherrod remaining out.