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New Quakes vs. Old Quakes, Round II

Posted on 10 September 2008 by Evan White

The last time the San Jose Earthquakes faced the Houston Dynamo, they fought and clawed for a 2-1 victory at home. That triumph snapped a five game winless streak, providing the team with a short respite from the daily grinds of the early expansion season.

This Saturday’s match carries a very different Earthquake roster and greatly improved mentality. Francisco Lima, Arturo Alvarez, and Darren Huckerby have all been key additions since the last bout between the Earthquakes and the franchise that occupied San Jose before them. The new players have instilled a new ability to score, and brought swagger to the team as well. Alvarez has noted the atmosphere surrounding the team, acknowledging the new sentiment of self-assurance.

“The practices have been very sharp since I have been here and the team is feeling good,” said Quakes captain Nick Garcia. “We are all on the same page right now, working hard for each other and getting results. There is a good atmosphere in the locker room right now.”

Garcia is riding the new wave of confidence as well, and believes that the one dismal playoff hopes are now anything but.
“These next two games are obviously huge,” he said. “We have our own destiny in our hands now. Houston is a very good side, so it will be tough, but we have the guys in here to get two good results and stay in the playoff hunt.”

San Jose comes in to Saturday’s game with an eight game unbeaten streak on the line. Fresh off a 2-1 victory against D.C. United, the Quakes have moved in to fourth place in the Western Conference. Goals by Alvarez and Huckerby fueled San Jose, and the defense had a bend but not break mentality to hold D.C. to just one score.

Huckerby and O’Brien were relentless in their attack from out wide, testing the defense all match long. Lima helped SJ dominate the midfield, which drew just as much praise in the post game press conference from Coach Frank Yallop as any of the goals did.

“He is a driving force and an influence in the middle of the field,” Yallop said of Lima. “He is exactly what we needed in there. I think between Ramiro Corrales and Francisco Lima they were starting to really strike a nice partnership. I like Francisco (Lima) I think he has great character, the guys like him a lot. He is a tough man and he always wants to win and that is terrific to have in any team.”

Including his latest performance, Huckerby has totaled four goals and four assists in the seven games he has played with the Quakes. Alvarez scored for the second game in a row to bring his tally to three goals since coming over from Dallas.
Houston comes in to Saturday’s showdown carrying a similar swagger as the Earthquakes. After a sluggish start, Houston has won 4 of their last 5 games and has surged in to first place in the Western Conference. Their last victory came 3-1 Sunday against the Kansas City, the Eastern Conference cellar dweller. Even though Kansas City was an easy victory, two of their 4 recent wins have come against Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, the two teams Houston leap-frogged en-route to their status as conference leader.

Familiar faces to The Bay Area have paved the way for Houston, as Brian Ching has paced the squad with 9 goals. Dwayne DeRosario is second on the team with 5, but leads the team with shots on goal.

Although both of those players were absent for their match against Kansas City, the rest of the roster handled the Wiz with ease. Two second half goals from forward Nate Jaqua provided more than enough scoring, and the defense stunted almost all KC attacks in allowing them only one goal. Houston Head Coach Dominic Kinnear understands the importance of the upcoming stretch of games, starting with the white-hot Earthquakes.

“You need to be self-motivated and focused because you never know, things change from day to day. In this next seven-week stretch, it’s important for them to be ready, and they have been so far. The team is successful and is playing well. If everyone wants to be a part of it, most importantly, when they step on the field, the standard cannot drop, and I think we have done that.”

Another player with a big impact on Sunday for Houston was former Quake Kei Kamara, who recorded the first two assists of his MLS career. The striker that once led San Jose in goals will make his first return to Buck Shaw stadium since being traded.

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“New Quakes” look to maintain momentum against United

Posted on 04 September 2008 by mdiamond

As the San Jose Earthquakes suit up for their game this Saturday against D.C. United, the players and coaches will be dealing with a kind of pressure they have not had to face yet this season: a serious expectation to win. Since the franchise’s revival earlier this year, the Earthquakes organization and their faithful fans have relished the “baby steps,” as captain and center back Nick Garcia put it in a February interview, that have snowballed into the team’s current seat at 4th place in the Western Division. Now, with a newly and somewhat suddenly productive offense that has offered 14 goals in its last 7 games (as opposed to the 12 tallies it managed in the 16 games before that), the Earthquakes are as offensively potent and as fun to watch as they were before their departure from Spartan Stadium in 2004, and have maintained a defensive stinginess that is most exemplified in Joe Cannon’s fantastic goals-against average of just 1.18.

The last match these teams played means exactly as much as the four stars atop United’s crest will mean come 7 p.m. Saturday – nothing. The June 22 matchup between these two squads (which D.C. won 3-1) should be neither a source of apprehension nor a spring of revenge-fueled motivation for San Jose. They are a different squad entirely, sporting a midfield and front line that contain few of the players that took the field at RFK stadium. The addition of Darren Huckerby on the left flank, Artruro Alvarez and Scott Sealy in the forward slots and Ronnie O’Brien’s consistent hard work up and down the right sideline have given every other team in the MLS something to think about.

San Jose’s defense should have their hands full this Saturday matching up against Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno, who have combined for 20 goals already this season. Captain Nick Garcia and central defender Jason Hernandez, both solid ball-winners, should be able to contain D.C.’s deadly duo one-on-one, but when combination play at the top of the penalty area ensues the Quakes need to maintain their composure and double their work rate in order to prevent disaster. Without the settling presence of injured Ramiro Corrales in the midfield, San Jose must be wary of through-balls and quick counterattacks in the middle of the park. Ned Grabavoy slid into Corrales’ vacant position in the Quakes’ match against Kansas City last Saturday and looks to build his confidence and establish greater chemistry with the rest of the starting 11 this weekend. Grabavoy must maintain the blistering end-to-end pace that makes San Jose dangerous, but if his performance against the Wizards was a preview of what he will do against United, the Earthquakes midfield looks to be in good shape. For a team that lives and dies on momentum (only 10 of their games this season have seen a goal from both sides) the Quakes must look to score early, control the pitch with crisp passing and physical tackles, and manage the center of the park even without Corrales’ guidance.

D.C., on the other hand, enters this game a statistical favorite and with a well-established track record. They have scored 15 more goals than San Jose so far this season and, though not on a hot streak like their 6-win tear that spanned all of June and half of July, they are an opponent not easily held scoreless. Captain Jaime Moreno will be especially goal-hungry after missing an 81st-minute penalty kick that would have given his team a much-needed win at home over New York on Saturday. United is enjoying a boost between the pipes at the moment in Liberian-born Louis Crayton, the recent acquisition who has allowed just 2 goals in his 4 games. United’s defense has aided Crayton in securing shutouts in 3 of its last 4 games despite concerns over a relatively shallow bench caused by the absences of Dominic Mediate and Gonzalo Peralta, both of whom are currently sidelined by injuries.

As San Jose continues to emerge from their goal-anemic formative period that was its first 16 games, the team needs to play with confidence in the fact that they are a team good enough to win plenty of their remaining games and even, dare I say it, make the playoffs. The underdog image has been shattered and in its place stands the imposing and familiar silhouette of a team that can dump 4 goals on New England, hold Houston and Columbus scoreless and play the fast-paced, physical, electric soccer that their home city remembers, loves and deserves. Instead of being a conventional expansion franchise, one which lurks at the bottom of the standings for several years until some stroke of magic turns them into a viable championship contender, the Earthquakes are playing with the kind of precision, flair, and motivation that rekindles memories of the championship squads of ’01 and ’03. In short, if the Earthquakes play Saturday like they have in their last 6 games, they should continue their climb up the standings.

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Quakes Win Final California Clasico

Posted on 04 August 2008 by Evan White

A goal by Ryan Cochrane in the 90th minute broke a 2-2 tie and gave the San Jose Earthquakes a 3-2 victory–their first win in nearly two months.

With so many new faces on the front line for San Jose, players might not have even noticed the difference between McAfee Coliseum and last week’s host Buck Shaw Stadium. Four of the six midfielders and forwards had less McAfee Coliseum experience than the entire Los Angeles squad, including Arturo Alvarez who was making his Earthquake premier. Alvarez did not disappoint as his goal in the 8th minute gave the Quakes a quick lead. Goals by Darren Huckerby and Cochrane followed, giving San Jose their highest offense output of the season. Scores by the Galaxy’s Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan kept the game close, but the day belonged to the Earthquakes.

“It feels good to win in front of our fans,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said after the game. “We had some good chances to score some more goals. All in all, it was a terrific game for us. We were obviously not happy for the two goals that LA scored, but sometimes you’re a little bit vulnerable. We had a terrific comeback in the last couple of minutes of the game, and it showed character in the team.”

The Quakes came out aggressively and made the most of their opportunities. Forward Scott Sealy, in his third game with San Jose, provided a high energy style reminiscent of Ryan Johnson who was sitting on the bench. After a Galaxy turnover near midfield, Sealy received a lofted pass with space on the left side. Penetrating towards the heart of the LA defense, he was able to slot the ball to an open Arturo Alvarez. Alvarez maneuvered around one defender, and slid the ball just past the diving keeper Steve Cronin. He did not waste time in providing an impact, becoming the second Earthquake in as many weeks to score a goal in his SJ debut.

“It felt really good to get the goal,” Alvarez said. “Obviously it’s my first game in three years with the Earthquakes. It’s not a bad way to start. Hopefully I can bring in more goals.”

Moments later the Galaxy mounted a counter attack, pouncing on the Earthquake’s and the crowd’s celebration. A cross provided Edson Buddle, the hero of the last Clasico meeting, with an open touch shot at the goal. The ball was sent high off the forward’s right foot, lofting into the small group of “Galaxians” behind the goal.

The Earthquakes kept up their pressure. In the 16th minute Ronnie O’Brien found a bit of separation on the right flank that gave him a clear path down the sideline, but his cross couldn’t find a recipient and was knocked away from danger.

A minute later a SJ turnover gave David Beckham acres of land on the right side. As Beckham charged towards the goal, no defender was near enough to challenge a potential shot on goal. Luckily for the Earthquakes, Beckham tried to slide the ball to a trailing teammate, but the Earthquake defenders diffused the effort.

When asked after the game if he chooses to pass too quickly because he’s so good at it, Beckham said, “I do what I see. I saw Alan Gordon in the middle with a better opportunity than me to score. I tried to find him, and it just wasn’t a good pass.”

In the 29th minute Alvarez had the opportunity to score his second goal of the game, a header off of an O’Brien cross. Even with good placement, the header was snagged by Cronin to keep the game close.

LA almost equalized on an Ante Jazic cross from the left, but the header was sent past a diving Joe Cannon and just wide of the post.

The Earthquakes responded quickly in the 40th minute as Eric Denton advanced the ball up the left side. A pass to Huckerby left him with just one defender to beat–Chris Klein who slipped. Huckerby continued into the LA penalty box near the end line. Even with the tricky angle, Huckerby was able to fire the shot past the diving keeper and clip the inside of the far post. With his second goal in as many games with San Jose, Huckerby pulled to within one of Ryan Johnson for the team lead.

“It was a good ball from Eric (Denton),” Huckerby said. “and I knew it was one-on-one, and I just got by them. I was looking to pass it to Scott (Sealy), but he got blocked off so I took the ball to the corner, and it worked.”

A 2-0 deficit may have been the proverbial shot in the arm for the LA attack. Two minutes after Huckerby’s goal, Beckham found himself with an indirect kick from the right channel. His chip was headed high by a member of the LA goal-mouth mob, which was punched away by Cannon. Beckham again found himself with separation on the side. His cross was perfectly placed to the head of co-star Donovan, who re-positioned the cross past a diving Cannon for the goal.

Donovan was followed by a constant stream of boos every time he touched the ball, but his 42nd minute goal momentarily silenced the crowd.

San Jose two goals going into halftime were the first they had scored against their SoCal rivals all season.

The second half would begin much like the first, with the Earthquakes relentlessly attacking and setting the tempo. Sealy had possession deep in the box, but was unable to get off a clean kick as he was hounded by the Galaxy defense. His shot was directly at the keeper, but Cronin bobbled the ball. With Alvarez in the vicinity, the Galaxy defense had no option but to clear the ball quickly.

Galaxy defender Chris Klein had trouble all afternoon with the Earthquake’s attackers, almost getting beat for a goal again by Sealy. After a few moments of possession with his back to the goal, Sealy spun left evading Kline, but rifled his shot off of the cross bar and out of play.

The Galaxy continued to struggle against the stringent SJ back line, but almost found another goal off a Beckham indirect kick. In almost the same position as his first, Beckham bent a pass that was barely deflected by a leaping Cannon. With the ball squirting out towards the center of play, and Cannon still sprawled on the field from his effort, the Earthquakes were fortunate to come out with possession.

After a prolonged period of unsuccessful advances on the SJ defense, the Galaxy was able to break through with Mike Randolph handling the ball just outside the penalty box. Weaving in and out of defenders, Randolph was just in front of the goal hounded by defenders. He flung a shot at the goal, which was again stopped by a diving Joe Cannon.

The same sort of blasé passing at midfield earned Ronnie O’Brien an open shot on goal, as a cross-field pass coupled with an O’Brien ball fake game him an open lane at the goal. His shot in the 72nd minute trickled just wide of the post and past a diving Cronin.

The highest scoring team in the MLS would not be held to one goal for long. Earthquake nemesis Edson Buddle dribbled through three SJ defenders and slipped a low shot just under Cannon’s outstretched arm for an unassisted score in the 76th minute.

In the 89th minute Ryan Cochrane broke through. Cronin knocked away a Corrales cross right to Huckerby who drove it right back to Cronin. This time, Cochrane recovered the rebound eight yards out and drilled the shot into the back of the net for the game winning goal.

Cochrane was as stunned by his goal as the Galaxy. “I really don’t know what happened,” he said. “The ball was just loose, and I was hanging around the area. I almost gave up on it, but thought I would stay down there and hopefully something would come up.”

A few last-minute Galaxy attempts drew the crowd to their edge of their seats, but the last moments of the clock melted away quickly.

Alvarez discussed returning the Quakes after a three year hiatus with FC Dallas. “It feels good to be back. I forgot how nice the weather was here. I’ve been in Dallas for three years, and I’m also from Houston, and it’s pretty hot there. But I’m happy to be back in the beautiful California weather.”

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Match Facts

Los Angeles Galaxy (6-8-5) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (4-9-6)
August 03, 2008 — McAfee Coliseum

Scoring Summary:
SJ — Arturo Alvarez 4 (Scott Sealy 1, Darren Huckerby 1) 8
SJ — Darren Huckerby 2 (Eric Denton 1) 40
LA — Landon Donovan 13 (David Beckham 8) 42
LA — Edson Buddle 12 (unassisted) 76
SJ — Ryan Cochrane 1 (unassisted) 90

Lineups:

Los Angeles Galaxy — Steve Cronin, Chris Klein (Carlos Ruiz 76), Sean Franklin, Greg Vanney, Ante Jazic, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Peter Vagenas, Ely Allen (Mike Randolph 46), Edson Buddle, Alan Gordon,

Substitutes Not Used: Alvaro Pires, Eduardo Dominguez, Mike Munoz, Josh Wicks

San Jose Earthquakes — Joe Cannon, Jason Hernandez, Ryan Cochrane, Nick Garcia, Eric Denton, Arturo Alvarez, Ronnie O’Brien (Ryan Johnson 82), Ramiro Corrales, Francisco Lima, Darren Huckerby, Scott Sealy (Jovan Kirovski 92+),

Substitutes Not Used: John Cunliffe, Kelly Gray, Michael Gustavson, James Riley, Shea Salinas

Misconduct Summary:
SJ — Ryan Cochrane (caution; Reckless Foul) 46
LA — Landon Donovan (caution; Tackle from Behind) 73

Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee’s Assistants: Paul Scott; Greg Boles
4th official: Yader Reyes
time of game: 1:55
attendance: 26,071
weather: Clear -and- 70 degrees

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Reds misfire at home

Posted on 19 July 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Toronto FC could only draw visiting San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 on Saturday, the fifth straight game at home they’ve failed to win. Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps and friendly opponents Pachuca and Independiente have all avoided defeat at BMO Field in the last month.

It was a listless performance by the two youngest teams in Major League Soccer thanks to a hot, humid afternoon at Exhibition Place stifling what little creative play was on offer.

Toronto boss John Carver made a couple of changes from the squad that fell 2-1 in Chicago last week, with youngsters Tyler Rosenlund and Abdus Ibrahim coming into the starting lineup. San Jose, coached by assistant Ian Russell after Frank Yallop’s suspension last week, brought new signings Francisco Lima, Scott Sealy and Darren Huckerby straight into the team.

As early as the ninth minute, Toronto had a “goal” ruled out long after the whistle had gone on an apparent offside by Ibrahim. Replays showed that the assistant to referee Paul Ward was mistaken.

It was midfield ace Amado Guevara who had the best chance of the first half, blazing over an open goal when Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon could only punch Marvell Wynne’s low cross into the Honduran’s path. Guevara was doing his best to bring the game to life with neat passing and a touch of flair but couldn’t keep the game from going into the break scoreless.

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The muggy conditions ensured that the second half started just as the first had ended. The game’s major talking point came in the 69th minute when Ibrahim was hauled down in the 18-yard-box trying to get on the end of a cross. It looked like typical penalty area argy-bargy on second viewing, but Toronto were happy for the rare opportunity to test Cannon.

Guevara had hardly put a foot wrong all game but with the weight of the stadium on his shoulders, his effort from the spot was blocked with relative ease. The shot had power but was almost straight at the waiting Cannon, reminiscent of Collin Samuel’s wasted penalty in the season opener at Columbus, Toronto’s only previous trip to the spot all season.

Jim Cunningham was brought on seconds later to try and bring some bite to the Toronto attack, but it was too late for the 99-goal man to make an impact on the game.

With crucial matches approaching in the Canadian Championship and MLS in the coming weeks, John Carver will have to bring some bite into the Toronto attack. Tuesday brings the visit of Montreal Impact, with a win vital for TFC to claim the Voyageurs Cup and a spot in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying.

TFC may have become overconfident at home having gone undefeated at fortress BMO in MLS play, but with losses in friendly action and the Canadian Championship and two straight 0-0 draws in the league, fans in Toronto have forgotten what its like to see their team win. With more away matches than home ties scheduled for the remainder of the season, more firepower is needed fast before the Reds will have to bid their playoff hopes goodbye.

Match Facts

San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-5) vs. Toronto FC (6-6-4)
July 19, 2008 — BMO Field

Scoring Summary:
San Jose Earthquakes — Joe Cannon, James Riley, Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, Eric Denton, Francisco Lima (Kelly Gray 63), Ramiro Corrales, Darren Huckerby (Kei Kamara 64), Ronnie O’Brien, Ryan Johnson, Scott Sealy (John Cunliffe 94+).

Substitutes Not Used: Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero, David Monsalves, Shea Salinas

Toronto FC — Greg Sutton, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Marco Velez, Jim Brennan, Rohan Ricketts, Carl Robinson, Tyler Rosenlund (Jeff Cunningham 70), Laurent Robert, Amado Guevara, Abdus Ibrahim.

Substitutes Not Used: Nana Attakora-Gyan, Brian Edwards, Gabe Gala, Tyler Hemming, Julius James, Jarrod Smith

Misconduct Summary:
TOR — Abdus Ibrahim (caution; Delaying a Restart) 18
SJ — Jason Hernandez (caution; Pushing, Holding) 26

Referee: Paul Ward
Referee’s Assistants: Joe Fletcher; Daniel Belleau
4th official: Steven DePiero
time of game: 1:53
attendance: 20,264
weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 84 degrees

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Return to Canada for Yallop

Posted on 18 July 2008 by Scott Ferguson

Frank Yallop will bring his San Jose Earthquakes side to Toronto on Saturday as the only Canadian manager in Major League Soccer, with Yallop hoping that his knowledge of players like Jim Brennan and Greg Sutton can help him break the club’s undefeated home streak in league action.

Toronto’s only blemish on their record at BMO Field was a Canadian Championship loss to Vancouver Whitecaps, as the Reds have enjoyed the comforts of home during league play with five wins and three draws.

In matches this year in the United States Toronto have won just one game, a 3-2 decision over Los Angeles Galaxy back in April. Carver’s men fell 2-1 in Chicago last week on a stoppage time goal by the Fire’s John Thorrington, the Reds’ sixth road loss in 2008. Such a dismal run away from home has meant that Toronto’s games at BMO Field take on even more significance for the club’s playoff hopes.

Yallop is familiar with Canadian soccer, having coached the national team from in the last World Cup qualifying cycle. His last trip to BMO Field came even more recently when his LA Galaxy side drew TFC last season He’ll have to watch from afar and relay messages to the club’s staff this time around, however. Yallop is suspended from the bench having received five cautions already this year.

O’Brien

It’s been stressful for San Jose, winless in six games going into Toronto. One player already used to such expansion woes is Ronnie O’Brien, the midfielder who was a part of Toronto’s inaugual campaign in 2007 but was restricted to just 13 appearances, emerging as a fan favourite nonetheless. A recurring knee injury meant that O’Brien sought greener pastures than the artificial turf at BMO Field in the off-season.

That chance came with the Quakes, who had already recruited Yallop to return to the Bay area for the team’s second coming. The Canadian boss had a highly successful spell at the former incarnation of the Quakes from 2001 to 2003.

O’Brien’s is questionable for the Toronto clash with a hamstring strain, with Gavin Glinton and Kelly Gray also likely to miss out. Nick Garcia is suspended along with Toronto midfielder Maurice Edu, whose teammates Todd Dunivant and Danny Dichio are on the injured list.

One player looking to benefit from Dichio’s absence is 16-year-old Abdus Ibrahim, the former FC Dallas starlet who recently joined the Reds and scored off the bench on his debut last Saturday. With English striker Paul Dickov still in talks with Toronto FC and English clubs in the second and third tier, Carver is short on firepower up front and may turn to Jeff Cunningham and Ibrahim over misfiring Kiwi striker Jarrod Smith.

Toronto are bracing for a big week and may be forced to rotate their squad ahead of Tuesday’s must-win Canadian Championship tie against Montreal Impact. There promises to be a cup final atmosphere ahead of the game, with TFC needing a win to lift the Voyageurs Cup in front of their home fans.

Jim Brennan will star for the MLS All-Star Team against West Ham United in his home ground two days later, making it three in five days if he features in both of the Reds’ matches this week.

TFC fell at home in friendly action on Tuesday night, dropping a 1-0 decision to Argentina’s Independiente. Toronto also had talented youngsters Marvell Wynne and Maurice Edu called up to the United States’ Olympic side for the tournament in Beijing this summer.

Check the Quakes page for our correspondent Evan White’s take on the upcoming game. Saturday’s encounter can be viewed on CBC in Canada.

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Earthquakes Victorious in Dynamo Reunion

Posted on 23 May 2008 by Evan White

After a three year spell, Dwayne DeRosario, Brian Ching, and Richard Mulrooney were finally back playing professional soccer in the Bay Area. However drawing the ire of the crowd instead of the admiration was a different experience altogether. In an ironic display of a franchise’s past success, the 2001 and 2003 MLS Cup Champion banners were brought on to the field to the cheers of the local fans. The players that played on those championship teams received a mixed response from the crowd during introductions. The fans were all cheers at the end of regulation, as San Jose earned their first home victory of the season 2-1.

The ex-Earthquake Houston Dynamo made their first return trip to the Bay Area to take on the current San Jose Quakes. The player’s reception of each other were as mixed as the fans, with Houston Defender admitting that the teams focus might have been off with the teammate’s reunions. How much that affected the Dynamo’s play is uncertain, but San Jose played what head coach Frank Yallop called “their best all around game of the season.” Forward Kei Kamara and Ivan Guerrero were able to capitalize on great opportunities, something San Jose has struggled to do all season. Forward Ryan Johnson did not find the scoreboard, but had a huge impact throughout the game.

The Earthquake midfield also played especially well, controlling possession and pace for extended stretches throughout the match.

No surprises came from the San Jose defense, as they were physical and disruptive as usual. James Riley was squeezed out of the starting lineup for Nick Garcia’s return, and the whole backline was dominant. The waning moments of regulation did provide a goal for Houston forward Brian Ching, and they continued to pressure until the final whistle sounded.

The beginning of the game did not yield many opportunities for either team, as much of the play was in the midfield. The first shot on goal for the Quakes came in the 16th minute by Ramiro Corrales, but the first great opportunity came from the foot of Ryan Johnson moments later.

In an effort to control a long ball, midfielder Ivan Guerrero touched the pass to forward Ryan Johnson, and immediately turned and headed up-field. With their focus shifted towards Johnson, the Dynamo players allowed Guerrero to sprint through the teeth of their defense. Johnson quickly lofted a pass over the back line, leading Guerrero down the flank. The midfielder’s cross was just behind the streaking striker Kei Kamara, causing him to stop his momentum to retrieve the ball. He could not muster a shot, and was forced to play the ball back to Ramiro Corrales. Corrales fired off a shot, but was saved by opposing keeper Pat Onstad.

Moments later Cannon fired a ball deep onto the Dynamo side of the field, and Kamara was able to use his physical nature to free himself from the defense. What followed became business as usual for the Earthquakes, as the forward was not able to capitalize on the opportunity and was stripped of the possession before he could get a shot off.

Numerous prospects were soon to follow, which only ended in results all too familiar to Frank Yallop. Houston defender Bobby Boswell almost gave San Jose a goal, turning over the ball to Earthquake striker Ryan Johnson. Johnson’s run ended with an attempted curl past the opposing keeper Pat Onstad, but the outstretched goalie was able to punch the ball out of bounds and away from danger.

Johnson again found himself in the center of action with another run down the left flank. His cross was played by Kamara, who was only able to get a piece of the ball and nudge it towards the goal. It looked as if a bounce might finally end up in San Jose’s favor, but midfielder Ivan Guerrero sent the deflection off the crossbar. Yallop later admitted his frustrations with these types of plays in the post-game press conference. Upon being asked if he thought “here we go again” after Kamara and Guerrero’s near misses, his answer was short and truthful: “Kind of,” he said.

Kamara and Guerrero were unable to finalize either of their chances, but neither player is going to remember this game for their near misses.

Kamara’s forward counterpart, Ryan Johnson, played an excellent game.

Yallop even went as far to call Johnson the catalyst for his team’s performance.

“It was good. He is a bit of a rough and tumbler, but he gets it done. He isn’t afraid of getting in there, and I think he was the difference tonight. He helped us play the way we want to play. Ryan is not as refined, but he is running with his heart and showed a lot of commitment for this team.”

In just his second career start, Johnson took full advantage and ensured his spot in the lineup for the next game. As a player struggling to distance himself from a stable of forwards, Johnson was excited to hear of Yallop’s proclamation that he would receive a starting spot in the lineup again next week. The forward knew what was expected of him from the coach, as he admitted his pre-game instructions were to “work his [butt] off.”

The best opportunities for Houston came near the end of the second half, as the 37th minute proved to be an active one for the Dynamo attack. San Jose-familiar Dynamo forward Dwayne DeRosario provided a cross that gave midfielder Stuart Holden a clear lane for the header. Holden could not establish solid contact or placement, and the shot was saved handedly by keeper Joe Cannon for his first save of the match. The pressure would continue moments later, as Brian Ching had another header that was again saved harmlessly by Cannon.

The beginning of the second half was dictated by Houston’s style of attack, as Holden was received a pass from forward Franco Coraccio. Holden rifled a low shot that was snagged by a diving Cannon. The Dynamo continued asserting themselves in San Jose’s half of the field, but their luck would soon change.

Veteran defender Eddie Robinson was taken out in the 62nd minute due to an abdominal injury, and things would quickly deteriorate for the Dynamo defense.

Momentarily scattered play in the midfield resulted in San Jose mid Ronnie O’Brien with space on the flank. He attempted a cross towards the top of the Houston box, but a leaping defender blocked the attempt. Hanging in the air, Grabavoy was able to head the ball to forward Kamara. The San Jose forward has struggled playing with his back to the net, but his quick footwork allowed him to turn away from the defender and simultaneously fire a low shot on goal. Beside the defender, the shot snuck by keeper Pat Onstad to give the Quakes the 1-0 lead in the 67th minute.

The San Jose crowd erupted upon Kamara’s second goal of the season, but the Earthquakes attack would continue to drive forward.

A San Jose counter attack, sparked by a defensive turnover in Houston’s own half, supplied Guerrero with a flank-mate in Johnson. With only one defender in the play, Guerrero dumped the ball to Johnson at the perfect time to give him the open shot. Johnson’s ball was struck with power but not placement, and Onstad was able to deflect the shot before it could reach nylon. The ball finally bounced in San Jose’s favor, as Guerrero recovered the rebound and easily placed it in the back of the net.

Houston would recover one goal and escape the shutout, as Brad Davis found himself with operating room on the right wing. He volleyed a tight cross to a heavily covered Brian Ching, but Ching’s shot was better placed than Davis’ cross. The Dynamo forward was able to redirect the pass under duress, slotting the shot past a diving Cannon.

The continuous pressure of the Dynamo attack was eerily similar to the Crew’s furious late game showing, as a nervous feeling spread to everyone in the stadium. The four minutes of stoppage time were the longest four minutes of the Quake’s young season. A small cheer started to creep from the stands as the fans could feel stoppage time eroding away. By the time there were a few seconds left, the crowd was on its feet cheering. The final whistle was followed by a communal exhalation and sigh of relief, consequently followed by an eruption from the Earthquake faithful. Players stayed on the field applauding, basking in their first home victory of the season. Johnson ran to the Casbah to high five Buck Shaw’s rowdiest group of fans, and Cannon leaped over the rail to immerse himself in the hometown crowd. Between the first home victory and the fans output, Cannon was sentimental after the game acknowledging what this win meant for the franchise.

“It now really feels like home.”

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