Well folks, they did it–the San Jose Earthquakes are back on top with 33 points! They finished off their road trip with a confrontation with (ex)league leaders Real Salt Lake. While San Jose was riding high coming off their road win at Colorado on Wednesday, RSL had something to prove after squandering their 2 goal lead to lose 3-2 to LA at home on the same day.
The Real Salt Lake offense came out strong, with several amazing chances. The fact that they were kept off the scoreboard until the 79th minute is thanks in no small part to the extraordinary work of the San Jose defense. Both Justin Morrow and Jason Hernandez made crazy goal-line saves, and Victor Bernardez fell right back into his role of anchoring the central defense. Even so, there were a few instances where even I could not believe the ball had not gone in.
The Quakes had some good chances as well. Chris Wondolowski just couldn’t quite take advantage of a few good balls that came his way. Whether it was the effects of the altitude and the short week, or still shaking out some of the rust from the long break, the offense just seemed slightly off their game for the first hour or so.
And then–you guessed it–Gordon Time happened. Gordon Time actually came a little early tonight, when he subbed on for Steven Lenhart in the 59th minute. It took him a full 15 minutes to get on the board, with a header remarkably similar to the game winner against the LA Galaxy back in May. Since the 75th minute is actually early for Alan Gordon, at least a couple San Jose fans were feeling a little nervous about what could happen in the remaining quarter of an hour.
Sure enough, Javier Morales scored 4 minutes later for RSL off a beautiful free kick just outside San Jose’s 18 yard box. Although Jon Busch got a hand on the ball, he just couldn’t push it past the post. But that is when I sat back and waited for it to get good, as we still had 10-15 minutes to play and that is when San Jose usually shines.
They did not disappoint. In the 84th minute, Gordon redirected a Morrow throw-in to Wondo, who made no mistake about putting this one in the back of the net. 2-1 San Jose. 13 goals on the season for Wondo.
Want some more impressive numbers? San Jose have now scored 21 second half goals, 12 of which have been in the 75th minute or later. In case you missed it when I said it in the beginning, the San Jose Earthquakes are on top of the league. They are in the lead for the Supporters Shield. Who would have predicted this last season?
The Earthquakes next face their resurgent rivals LA Galaxy Saturday, June 30, in front of what is set to be a sellout crowd of 50,000 at Stanford Stadium. That will be a game to watch, with both teams coming off hot streaks this week. My money is on the Quakes!
Image courtesy of mlssoccer.com