The San Jose Earthquakes suffered their first loss of the MLS regular season Saturday, falling on the road to defending champion Sporting Kansas City 1-0.
In an incredibly physical game even by MLS standards — six yellow cards and 37 fouls — a handball in the San Jose box led to the game’s lone score, a Dom Dwyer penalty kick goal in the 57th minute.
Dwyer calmly rolled the ball into the left corner of Jon Busch’s goal after fooling the Quakes keeper into diving in the opposite direction. The penalty was all defending champion Kansas City needed to secure their first league win of the season.
The penalty came during a scrum in the box where hacked recklessly at a loose ball. The ball eventually bounced onto Quakes striker Steven Lenhart’s hand, and a penalty was immediately given.
The handball was initially called on returning Earthquake’s center-back Clarence Goodson (who was issued a yellow card) despite replays showing that Quakes forward Steven Lenhart was the actual culprit.
After the match, Earthquake’s striker Chris Wondolowski was disappointed the result despite the squad’s effort:
“That was not a pretty game for either side tonight. Both teams worked hard and put a lot into the game, but it was not a great performance. You have to give Kansas City credit. They deserved to win tonight and we did not do enough to get a result.”
Coach Mark Watson agreed:
“Kansas City is a good team and they made it difficult on us out there and they deserved the three points. We talked about some adjustments at halftime and we came out a little better in the second half, but they got the goal and we couldn’t get back into it.”
Sporting Kansas City controlled possession and created most of the chances throughout the game, especially in the second half, holding San Jose to only two shots in the final 45.
KC captain Graham Zusi put in a man of the match performance. He showed his versatility throughout the game, dribbling, passing and even throwing the ball through the Quakes defense.
Sporting Kansas City’s best chance in the first half came via a long Zusi throw-in in the 18th minute into the San Jose box that forced an acrobatic goal line clearance by Quakes midfielder Jean Baptiste-Pierazzi.
A pinball-like sequence ensued, ending with a heavy touch from Sporting KC defender Ike Opara, who pushed the ball outside the left post.
Opara, a former Earthquake, hit his first chance off the post causing a dive from Busch and leaving the goal open. The ricochet came too fast for Opara who could not react in time to put KC ahead.
Sporting Kansas City would feel hard-done again in the 31st minute, when returning Quakes center-back Clarence Goodson took down Kansas City winger Salvatore Zizzo with a high foot to the midsection.
Goodson was attempting to clear a bouncing ball, and did. Replays, though, seemed to indicate the U.S. international got just as much of his man.
Goodson talked after the game about the physical battle:
“Both of the teams out there tonight play hard and it was a physical game. We are a hard team to score against, so we knew that we could stay in the game even though we weren’t playing our best. We had a few chances to tie it up, but it wasn’t our night.”
Though lockdown center-back pairing Victor Bernardez and Goodson made their return, San Jose never really got on track going forward. Their best chance coming from a Chris Wondolowski free kick from outside the box in the 83rd minute. The star striker skied it over the right upright.
San Jose and Kansas City returned to MLS play Saturday evening after losing CONCACAF Champions League matches during the week. Saturday’s match was Kansas City’s fourth in 11 days and the Earthquakes fourth in 12.
Coach Watson did not make any concessions regarding the busy start:
“We are not making any excuses. We have played a lot over the past two weeks, but now we have a week to rest and get prepared for New England next Saturday. That is a big game for us, so we need to get our bodies rested and be ready for another difficult game.”
With the first win of their title-defending campaign, Sporting Kansas City improves to 1-1-1 (4 pts.) while San Jose falls to 0-1-1 (1 pt.).
The Earthquakes get much-needed rest this week before returning to MLS action next Saturday, hosting the New England Revolution 0-1-2 (1 pt.) at Buck Shaw Stadium.