Well, the Quakes have done it. And by “it,” I mean swept the 3-game series with Real Salt Lake, put 4 points between themselves and their closest followers in the standings (in both the Eastern AND Western Conferences), and proved all but one of the MLSsoccer.com editors wrong in their predictions for this game (seriously, when will they ever learn??).
Just when us fans thought it couldn’t get any better than the latest installment of the California Clasico, in which San Jose beat LA 4-3 in dramatic fashion, we were treated to a 5-0 rout–no, complete dismantling!–of RSL. Sometimes, the scoreline does not tell the full story of a game. Not so here. This scoreline reflects exactly what took place. Real Salt Lake got off exactly 1 shot on goal thanks to the hard work of the San Jose defense, forcing Quakes’ keeper Jon Busch to make just 1 save.
Granted, RSL were down to 10 men for the final half hour or so of the match after captain Kyle Beckerman was shown straight red for arguing with (read: manhandling) the ref in the 57th minute. Earthquakes midfielder Sam Cronin took RSL’s Javier Morales out with a hard tackle. After Morales went down, Cronin paused before moving to send the ball out to allow Morales to get medical attention if needed.
Apparently he did not do so quickly enough for Beckerman, who appeared to get in a swing at Cronin before the ref separated them. The enraged Beckerman rather violently tried to tear the ref off of him. At that point most of the players on the field, the 2 assistant refs, AND security were all involved in the scrum. Result: a send off for Beckerman and yellow cards for SJ’s Justin Morrow and RSL’s Fabian Espindola.
Commentators and disgruntled RSL fans may point to that moment as the reason for the outlandish scoreline, but it was obvious from the get-go that San Jose was in control of the game. Chris Wondolowski put them ahead with a diving header in the 18th minute and the Quakes went into the half 1-0 up. After Beckerman was sent off, San Jose went in for the kill and RSL did not make the necessary line up adjustments to prevent it.
Alan Gordon allayed my fears about him starting in place of Steven Lenhart by chasing in a rebound off a Victor Bernardez header to put the Quakes up 2-0. Within 9 minutes Wondo flicked in a ball off Shea Salinas’ cross–3-0. A few minutes later Simon Dawkins did what I dub a “spin-and-smash,” pounding the ball into the net from an awkward position at close range. Just 1 minute later, in the 80th minute, Wondo completed his hat trick after Khari Stephenson provided him a beautiful through ball.
There is no arguing with a 5-0 scoreline. Real Salt Lake may have been without usual starters Tony Beltran and Nat Borchers, but San Jose was also without their own usual starters Lenhart and captain Ramiro Corrales. No doubt the red card played a part in how this game shook out; but as much as I respect Beckerman, he lost his cool and brought it on himself and his team.
And for once, no one can blame Lenhart! With or without Lenhart in the line up, it is becoming obvious that the Earthquakes have an uncanny ability to get under opponents’ skin and unnerve them. Real Salt Lake in particular have been repeatedly unhinged by the Quakes this season–San Jose definitely has their number.
All in all, the team’s return to Buck Shaw Stadium could not have been sweeter for either the players or the fans. Even Brandi Chastain was on hand to cheer on the Quakes! It’s been an epic season so far. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the season holds.
Image courtesy of mlssoccer.com