Draw dims Quakes’ faint playoff hopes

SANTA CLARA — San Jose’s playoff hopes drifted even farther away Saturday evening after failing once again to earn three points at Buck Shaw Stadium, drawing visitors Real Salt Lake 1-1.

The result puts the Quakes home record at 5-6-4 in 2014, one of the primary reasons they sit in second-to-last place in the Western Conference.

It wasn’t all San Jose’s fault this time, as a questionable penalty given late in the first half essentially gifted the visitors with an equalizer.

The call was especially frustrating considering San Jose scored — rather than conceded — early in the first half, something they’ve had difficulty with all season.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

Wondolowski was candid when asked about the officiating post-game:

“You know to be honest I thought the referee was terrible both ways. I thought there was calls all over the field for both teams that were just disastrous. I’m sure they can vouch for that. We got hit with a penalty that changed the game on a questionable call at that.”

Regarding the penalty, defender Jason Hernandez agreed it was soft, even if he was more diplomatic in his analysis:

“In my opinion it was a greatly timed challenge by Jordan. He made a great play to get across the runner and block the shot. Unfortunately the ref did not see it that way. You know it’s unfortunate that the game swings in that way, when we put a great performance together and don’t come out with three points.”

Coming off their worst-ever defeat at Buck Shaw — a 5-0 thrashing at the feet of Dallas — San Jose struck first in their return home when a poor touch by Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman in the San Jose box, led to an easy left-footed finish by Sam Cronin.

Wondolowski took the ball to the touchline before playing it back to Cronin, who took a touch before scoring his second goal in as many games.

The Quakes couldn’t shake their run of bad luck, however, when Real Salt Lake was awarded a penalty after Olmes Garcia went down easily after colliding with Jordan Stewart. The Quakes protested vehemently as replays showed minimal contact between Garcia and Stewart.

Javier Morales slotted home the spot kick — his seventh league goal of 2014 — tying the game at a goal a piece.

The first half was rough for referee David Gantar, who was swarmed by Quakes players after the halftime whistle when he gave RSL a goal kick on what looked to be a sure San Jose corner.

Coach Mark Watson had to pull both Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez away from Gantar as the teams made their way into the locker room.

This isn’t the first time Gantar has affected an Earthquakes game this year. On March 30, San Jose lost on a questionable 90th minute goal against New England, when Gantar allowed the Revs to play-on before allowing the ball to stop following a foul. Wondolowski hasn’t forgotten:

“To be honest that’s not the first time he’s done that to us. He got us against New England. It’s the same referee that they had a free kick and the ball was rolling. They did a quick free kick and the ball was still rolling. He promised me that the ball was stopped. I saw the replay and the ball was not stopped. I’m not sure if he has a vendetta or what, but I don’t think he’s an Earthquakes fan right now.”

San Jose would’ve stole one back before halftime if not for fingertip save from U.S. national Nick Rimando, who thwarted a point blank Shaun Francis effort after RSL was once again unable to clear the ball in their own box.

The second half was a mostly cagey affair with the best chances coming from San Jose  on set pieces. The best of which came via a quick free kick from substitute Cordell Cato, who found Wondolowski in front of goal, but the striker could only flick it harmlessly to Rimando.

The draw extends San Jose’s winless streak to five games.

San Jose faces Western Conference rivals Portland Timbers next weekend in a game they must win if they have any hope of squeaking into the postseason.


Follow @SFBay and @DaDudeDatDoDat on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the San Jose Earthquakes.

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