Some games you just want to forget. I have a feeling that Saturday’s game at the Montreal Impact is one of those games for the Earthquakes. Unfortunately, they will be feeling the aftershocks of this game well into next weekend’s home game against the Colorado Rapids, as they will be missing two important starters thanks to red cards.
The game started out like any other, with the Quakes keeping most of the possession and putting pressure on Montreal. However, it took a strange turn in the 21st minute when both Steven Lenhart and Montreal defender Hassoun Camara were shown red for a physical altercation that took place off the ball inside Montreal’s penalty box. Check out the video for yourself–Camara appears to karate chop Lenhart down after Lenny (admittedly) provokes him.
As if a double send off wasn’t disciplinary–or dramatic–enough, the ref proceeded to award a penalty kick to the Earthquakes. Naturally, as a Quakes fan I wasn’t about to complain about the call, but it didn’t make much sense even to me. Naturally, Wondo stepped up to the spot and, in the one real high point of the game, ended his “scoring drought” and scored his league-high 18th goal of the season.
With both sides now down to 10 men, Montreal reacted quickly and the newly-signed Italian Marco Di Vaio equalized 2 minutes later with his second goal since joining the Impact. The Quakes, on the other hand, were now completely without a target man, as Alan Gordon was not available due to suspension. Wondo and Simon Dawkins pressed up and managed to create a few chances, but were unable to convert.
Although San Jose and Montreal started the second half on equal terms, Lamar Neagle scored in the 61st minute to put the Impact up 2-1. As everyone knows, goonies never say die; as such, I wasn’t too worried, despite the fact that we were sorely missing Lenhart. However, in the 71st minute, Quakes defender Jason Hernandez brought down Di Vaio in the box and was sent off for denying a clear scoring opportunity. Patrice Bernier made no mistake in converting the penalty kick past keeper Jon Busch, and it was all downhill from there for the 9-man Quakes.
It was obvious they were a bit shook up from the loss of two integral players, and they did not display their usual calm in the final quarter of the match. They didn’t exactly freak out, but it is the closest they have looked to it in a long time. They did manage to finish out the match with 54.1 percent of the possession; unfortunately, without a target man, they were just not that dangerous in the final third.
All was not doom and gloom, however. Even though this loss hurts, like any other loss, it does not affect the Earthquakes’ standing in the Western Conference. Additionally, difficulty is always an opportunity for players to show what they are made of. Defender Justin Morrow took this opportunity and (literally) ran with it. He has been rock-solid for the Quakes and has played every minute of every game, but he brought a little something extra to the match on Saturday–making runs into the box, taking on players, and creating opportunities. Hopefully he will be able to take that and integrate it into his everyday play.
As was mentioned before, the Quakes will next host the Colorado Rapids at home on Saturday. Even though Colorado trails San Jose with a pretty significant point difference, San Jose will not want to drop points to a Western Conference opponent this close to the playoffs. Alan Gordon will be available once again to occupy the target man spot, and we will no doubt see a little defensive reshuffling in order to make up for the absence of Hernandez. The Quakes will hopefully bounce back from this loss and be able to preserve their unbeaten record at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Image courtesy of mlssoccer.com