Categorized | Match Reports

Quakes Roll 2-1 Over Wizards

Posted on 31 August 2008 by mdiamond

It’s not supposed to be like this. The San Jose Earthquakes, an expansion team, are expected to live for the season in the basement of the Western Conference, and until now, the team has fulfilled predictions. With their 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Wizards tonight, the Quakes have not lost in seven straight games and have won three of their last four. For the first time since the team was re-formed after a three-year hiatus, San Jose is not in last place having leapfrogged over the Colorado Rapids, 2-0 losers yesterday to Real Salt Lake.

While they still have a long way to go, the Earthquakes’ chances of making the playoffs—the initial purpose of every team—is beginning to sound within reach. “The pressure is building now because we are now fighting for the playoffs,” said Quakes forward Ryan Johnson after the game. “We have a good streak going, and we want to keep building on that and get a spot in the playoffs. We have developed a winning mentality here now and hopefully that will take us through to the end of the year.”

Several mid-season acquisitions have contributed to the Quakes turnaround, but the mid-July signing of Darren Huckerby from England’s Norwich City has had the biggest impact. Right from kickoff, Huck owned the left side and gave Wizards outside defender Jack Jewsbury plenty of business. Early on the Blues brought mid Kerry Zavagnin and others over to help double-team Huck.

San Jose coach Frank Yallop praised his fellow countryman. “I think he is really enjoying his football to be honest. You look at him off the field and around the building, and he is just flying. He just wants to get the ball because every time he gets the ball he feels like he can do something. He is going to go against anybody and beat them. He was great tonight. It is very exciting to watch him, I get on the edge of my seat when he gets the ball, and I am coaching.”

As for his take on MLS, Huckerby said, “I came here with an open mind. I came here to work hard. I enjoy playing on a good football team, and this is a good football team.”

The Quakes started out quickly. In the first minute Huckerby broke through the back line where he fed an open Arturo Alvarez. His shot from 8 yards was blocked, but Scott Sealy got the rebound and had a shot opportunity at the top of the box. A defender deflected the strike over the bar.

Kansas City had chances as well with neither side exerting much midfield pressure.

Early on both sides gave and received body checks putting players on the pitch. Referee Paul Ward allowed too many fouls leading to chippy play.

In the 13th Alvarez beat an offside trap and was loading up at the 18 when a hard slide tackle took him down.

Another exciting Huckerby run in the 21st gave him room to loop a pass over the pack to Ronnie O’Brien on the right whose volley ripped the outside of the net giving the fans a thrill but resulting in a goal kick.

Towards the end of the first half both midfields stepped up pulling the game away from the end lines. For a while much of the play was 50-50 balls with the ball ping-ponging back and forth.

In the 41st Alvarez may have dodged an offside and drove close to the left post. His strike deflected off the Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman to O’Brien 15 yards out on the right, who settled the ball and hit a rope that Hartman tipped over the post.

Out of the blue the Quakes got on the scoreboard in the 43rd. A short O’Brien cross from the right line of the penalty box found Alvarez with just enough space to calmly head in his second goal as a Quake and his fifth of the season.

In the first half, San Jose controlled the run of play outshooting the Wizards 7-2. The Wizards came out from halftime with energy and turned the momentum around. In the 52nd striker Davy Arnaud got past Eric Denton and ripped a line drive from 10 yards that Joe Cannon pushed away.

A few minutes later the Wizards worked several services into the box where the crowd of San Jose defenders broke up the attacks.

The Blues broke through in the 64th when Michael Harrington drove a low cross from the right. This time the ball had eyes and made its way through the defense to Arnaud who one-touched it in from 6 yards.

The Quakes responded with a furious attack. A series of three corner kicks and several crosses excited the crowd but ultimately resulting in a goal kick.

“For 20 minutes in the second half, we didn’t play as well as we could,” Huckerby said. “The last 10 minutes we dug in.”

In the 69th Alvarez fed Johnson near midfield, who had subbed in for Ned Grabavoy. Johnson took on Jimmy Conrad who slipped giving Johnson a clear run at Hartman from the right. Near the goal box Johnson hesitated, unable to decide to shoot or pass it off to Sealy running up the center. When he shot from close range, it was right to Hartman who scooped it up harmlessly.

“I was looking for a pass,” Johnson said. “I saw Scott (Sealy) in the middle. I looked up, saw him again, looked back down, looked up again. I should have just made up my mind and stuck with one thing instead of being in between. When you’re in between, that’s when you screw up, and I screwed up on that one.”

Johnson atoned in the 83rd by assisting in the game winner. The score began with midfielder Francisco Lima sending a cross from the left. Johnson raised up high with a little help from the back of the defender in front of him to head it back across the goal mouth where Huckerby headed it home from inside the goal box.

“After the game, Huck said he knew I was going to win it,” Johnson said. “He was already anticipating it before it even came across. I like it when it was a little bit lofted. I feel like I’m one of the better jumpers in the league, so I feel like I can win every ball if it’s played in my area. It was great anticipation by Huck to be back post to put it in.” Did Ryan know he was going to win it like Huckerby knew? “Yeah, I knew I was,” Johnson said with a wink and a nod.

The Wizards came back hard trying to create. At the start of extra time KC broke through the Quakes back line. A cross found an open but surprised Chance Myers. He couldn’t put much meat on his kick and Cannon wasn’t challenged.

“I thought we played well the first half,” Yallop said. “The first 20 minutes of the second was poor. We allowed Kansas City back into the game, but it’s great to come back and win the game in the end. It is a sign of a good team that sticks together and doesn’t quit.”

Yallop summed up his team’s situation. “We feel comfortable we can win. We have D.C. and then Houston, which are two tough games, but we have confidence that we can win both. We have already played the best teams home and away, and we have done ok. There is no guarantee that we are going to win every game but there is a guarantee that we are going to give everything we have and not quit and keep going.”

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