Wondo Bags Quotidian 100th Goal in 1-1 Draw with Orlando
If you were looking for something flashy for Chris Wondolowski's 100th career goal in MLS, you clearly haven't been following his career. But even if it felt anti-climatic, it provided enough good vibes for Quakes fans to make up for an otherwise mixed experience of a draw in Levi's stadium.
Facing off against the former best player on earth (Kaká) and top young striker in MLS (Cyle Larin), Dominic Kinnear didn't blink and trusted his favored 4-1-4-1 formation to rein them in, man-marking be damned. The opening minutes were a bit ragged, but Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernárdez played the part of enforcers, muscling Larin and Kaká off the ball on each of their respective first touches. There were undoubtably nervy moments and scuffed clearances, but the veteran back line always came through. The real star of the show was Fatai Alashe, tasked with manning the pivot at which Kaká primarily works, locking him down and leaving him isolated from his teammates.
Marvell Wynne took shots forward when they presented themselves, finding quite a bit of space down the right flank. The man in front of him, Sanna Nyassi, was quite simply not up to the task of being his partner throughout the first half. The real danger started coming down the opposite flank, with in-form Jordan Stewart and Shea Salinas combining over and over again to get in behind the defense and create at least a bit of spark. That movement was responsible for chances in the 11th, 12th, and 13th minutes as the game started to look more and more like San Jose's to win.
Matias Pérez-García looked buoyed by the career night he put on last weekend, putting in excellent service and dangerous shots, but he also looked a bit hobbled. While a seemingly innocuous challenge in the 24th minute clearly didn't help, Dominic Kinnear confirmed after the game that the injury had been sustained in training earlier in the week. The result was the typical technical brilliance from the diminutive playmaker, but less mobility and strength than we're used to seeing.
Otherwise, the first half was entirely devoid of real chances for Orlando going forward, as their vaunted attack looked entirely out of sync. The only thing saving them was that going the other direction, San Jose didn't look much sharper, with Alashe's passing in particular looking leaden-footed. The rookie would also be the recipient of a well-earned yellow card as the half came to a close for a forceful hack at Brek Shea's shins, but after Shea pushed back at him, it was the Michigan State product appealing for the referee to pull out his book once more.
Not long after the second half whistle blew, the rest of the game started to take shape. In a bizarre incident in the 50th minute, Goodson and Larin mutually wrestled each other to the ground going for a loose ball down the flank, tumbling out of bounds and leaving OCSC right-back Rafael Ramos to jump on it and force David Bingham into an excellent point blank save.
Less than 60 seconds later, Brek Shea was given a straight red for diving two footed through Sanna Nyassi without either obvious malice or control. In those fragile few minutes aftewrards, Wondolowski nearly intercepted a square pass at the back and deflected it on net, instead punching at teh ground that he couldn't get his toe to it. Quakes fans thought the breakthough was due in the 58th when Pérez-García rode three different challenges, played a 1-2 with Salinas, and was knocked down from behind as he drove in on goal, but the penalty appeal was waved away.
Then, out of nothing, the breaking moment went the other way when Tally Hall played a long straight ball from a free kick towards Larin. The Quakes back line, Bernárdez in particular, switched off for a few seconds and let the ball bounce once to free up Larin towards the keeper. David Bingham, sensing the danger, came off his line and clumsy tried to punch away the bouncing ball but caught more of the man and conceded the penalty. Up stepped Kaká, a man who has bagged penalties on far bigger stages than this, and smashed home a short-handed 64th minute opener.
The frustrated hosts responded by putting wave after wave of pressure on Orlando's back line, and won a series of corners. The final one, in the 67th minute, was deflected beyond the mass past Jordan Stewart, who attempted to control it but was instead steamrolled by left-back Luke Bolden. After the game, Boden would refer to the penalty as "harsh," but Stewart would call it a "stonewall."
The stadium swelled with noise at this point, realizing that Quakes Captain and designated penalty-taker, Chris Wondolowski, had an opportunity to bag his century goal from just 12 yards, with no defense to beat.
When Wondolowski read Orlando keeper (and long time friend) Tally Hall and passed it into the back of the net for the least spectacular-looking penalty of all time in the 68th minute, it was classic Wondo. Clinical. No nonsense. No doubt. Even more appropriately, he sprinted into the net to collect the ball, run it back to the center line, and get the game going again. After all, the score was 1-1, they had a man advantage, and Wondo has never been one to content himself with a draw.
With a bit of wind in their sails, Kinnear began to roll the dice. He pulled off the ineffectual Adam Jahn and Nyassi in favor of Khari Stephenson and Cordell Cato. Perhaps an even bolder risk, he left the hobbled MPG on. Stephenson was tasked with pushing the ball up in possession, playing a #8 role.
The results manifested themselves in immediate pressure, with Pérez-García curling a beautiful effort in the 72nd that Hall only barely managed to push away. It fell into the path of Jordan Stewart, who drilled the volley back towards goal but just over the frame. Cato's trickery quickly became useful, too, when in the 76th he ditched his defender with a sweet pull-back so that he could put in a cross that ultimately couldn't pick out a teammate.
For the first time all game, possession became fluid and coherent, if the play more physical and petulant. Alashe even got involved in the attack several times, pushing forward to the wings and gliding past markers, even executing a graceful twirl on the ball that would win a set piece after he got hacked down in the act. Cato bowled over hard-man Luke Boden. Martin Patterson, less than 30 seconds after coming on in the 85th, literally ripped Jordan Stewart's shorts as he grabbed onto him and pulled him to the ground, provoking Stewart to furiously appeal to the referee for a little protection.
With just three minutes of announced stoppage time shocking the entire press corps, the Quakes had to find an answer quick if they wanted to take all three points from a home match with a man advantage. However, despite a few late set pieces and corners, the winning goal would not come, and the final whistle blew on a 1-1 result.
Aside from the game itself, most of the chatter about the match focused on the venue. Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, is an unbelievably luxurious arena that opened just a year ago (with a Quakes game, no less), and has a mammoth capacity of 68,000. For this match, the attendance was announced at 36,224, simultaneously making for a sparse-looking crowd despite the closed-off upper sections but also doubling the normal home crowd at Avaya. After the match, two teenage boys appeared to be happy about the sparsely populated confines when they sprinted on the field towards Kaká to get their shirts signed by him. Oddly enough, the Brazillian indulged the request, even as they were being dragged off the field by security.
In addition to all the competitive news, US Soccer announced right at kickoff that Fatai Alashe had been called up into the U-23 national team once again and now looks like a lock for the Olympic team next summer. Later this week, the Quakes will host a press conference with the San Jose Mayor and MLS commissioner where sources indicate they will anounce that Avaya will host the 2016 MLS All-star game.
Next week, the Quakes ship up to the North Country to take on Toronto FC. Toronto sits 5th in the Eastern Conference standings, whereas the Orlando result puts San Jose 4th in the West.