It wasn’t pretty, but the San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0) squeezed out an improbable win Saturday night at Avaya Stadium, beating conference-leading Vancouver Whitecaps (4-2-1) 1-0 on a second half goal by Sanna Nyassi.
Facing a Whitecaps attack that came into the fixture leading the league in goals, the Earthquakes defense held the visitors without a shot on target, despite trotting out a makeshift back line that once again saw out of position Cordell Cato at left-back.
Cato was more than serviceable in a role he said midweek he doesn’t like playing, with he and returning right-back Marvell Wynne both putting in man of the match performances.
Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear believed their ability to match the speed of the Whitecaps forwards was a key to the victory:
“Cordell, being an emergency left back, looked comfortable. I think everyone talked about their speed out wide before the game started. So for us to counter it with speed was a good idea, and I thought both Marvell and Cordell had good games.”
A midweek match on Wednesday also likely lead to Vancouver’s lack of potency in front of goal.
Nyassi scored his first goal as an Earthquake in the 75th minute in what was San Jose’s only real chance of the match. Matias Perez Garcia set up the chance by dribbling into the penalty box and laying a pass off to Cato. Consecutive deflected shots from Cato and Shea Salinas followed, with the ball eventually landing at the feet of Nyassi, who smacked it home to give San Jose the lead.
The goal was one of the few notable moments in a sloppy and physical match that had twice as many cards — eight — as shots on target — four. The eight cards included two reds, issued simultaneously in the 88th minute to San Jose’s Adam Jahn and Vancouver’s Pedro Morales, after Morales kicked Jahn who was on the ground following a foul, with the big striker retaliating with a kick of his own.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Chris Wondolowski exited in the game in 64th minute with what appeared to be a calf issue, but coach Dominic Kinnear said the striker was simply tired.
Fan favorite Tommy Thompson made his first appearance of 2015, the 19-year-old coming on as a substitute in the 80th minute. The game also saw the first start of the season for former Whitecap Shea Salinas, who provided excellent pace down the left flank, and made life difficult for former Earthquake standout Steven Beitashour, one of the best right-backs in MLS. Kinnear thought Salinas played very well in his return to the starting XI:
“He was picking his spots to come inside and receive the ball well. And when he did receive the ball, he didn’t lose it, which was a real good thing … We talked to him at halftime about, ‘drive at the guy.’ Because he’s good when he’s running a people.”
The match is the first clean sheet of 2015 for San Jose.
The victory ends a two-game losing streak for San Jose ahead of a spell that will see them away from home until May 16. The Earthquakes will be in Harrison, N.J. Friday to face the New York Red Bulls at 4 p.m. PDT.