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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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