Friday’s clash between the San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-1) and Real Salt Lake (2-2-4) was, in a word, ugly.
One goal was scored on the most baffling offside call likely to be seen this season. The other came on an embarrassing own goal scored from 17 yards out.
The game featured 37 total fouls, the second most in an MLS match this season, and a paltry 68.4 percent passing accuracy from both teams, the second lowest in an MLS match this season.
There were only two shots on target, both from San Jose, but only one if you discount Chris Wondolowski’s 19th minute goal, in which the striker appeared to be three yards offside.
Wondolowski found that ball at his feet after Shea Salinas’ shot was deflected first by Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave and then again by midfielder Kyle Beckerman, only to roll behind to Wondolowski who instinctively smacked the ball home for his fourth goal of the season.
Former player and current soccer analyst Brian Dunseth tweeted that he was given the following explanation regarding the call after the match:
— Brian Dunseth (@BrianDunseth) May 2, 2015
The explanation seems to indicate the assistant referee believed that Olave intended to play the ball, and simply mistouched it, meaning Wondolowski would be considered onside under the new offside rules implemented this season.
The replay, however, appears to show that the ball simply deflected off Olave’s foot, and that the defender knew little about the attempted shot.
The second controversial moment came in the 30th minute, when Beckerman committed a hard foul on Matias Perez Garcia after already receiving a yellow card in the second minute for an earlier foul on Perez Garcia. Referee Sorin Stoica elected to call a common foul, much to the dismay of the Earthquakes players and bench.
After going behind in bizarre fashion, the hosts equalized in a manner just as inexplicable, even if it didn’t technically end their goal drought that has now lasted 406 minutes. Victor Bernardez put the ball in the net for the first time this season, on what would’ve been a pretty impressive strike had it come at the other end of the pitch.
Tracking down a bouncing ball deep in the San Jose area, Bernardez rushed his clearance as Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio bared down behind him. The Honduran international scuffed the clearance over the head of charging Earthquake keeper David Bingham into his own net. A dismayed Bernardez could only watch with his head in his hands.
The 1-1 draw is the Earthquakes’ first of the season.
Despite the performance, the Earthquakes will be content with the result, as Friday’s match marked the first of three road fixtures in eight days for the club. San Jose only has three days of rest before their next match against Dom Kinnear’s former club Houston Dynamo, themselves coming off a 4-1 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas Friday night.
A win against Houston on Tuesday could catapult San Jose into the Western Conference playoff picture, as they currently sit in seventh place behind the Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps on goal difference.