Two weeks ago, missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season looked like a near certainty for the San Jose Earthquakes. Four wins later, they look like the best team in MLS.
The Earthquakes extended their season-high four game winning streak, with a first half goal by Shea Salinas providing the difference in a huge 1-0 victory over rivals LA Galaxy.
San Jose also extended their streak of games without conceding to four in front of a sellout crowd of 18,000 at Avaya Stadium, despite the absence of midfield stalwart Fatai Alashe.
His replacement, Marc Pelosi, didn’t miss a beat, pairing well with newcomer Anibal Godoy who had another exceptional performance. San Jose is undefeated in all four games since acquiring the Panamanian on August 6.
A red card in the 46th minute put the visiting Galaxy in an even deeper hole after conceding in the 23rd minute. LA still holds the top spot in the Western Conference by a point, but Vancouver has two games in hand, and could leapfrog them with a victory against Houston tomorrow.
The Quakes are now in sole possession of the 6th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, leading Seattle by three points with eight games remaining.
After nearly conceding a Zardes header 23 seconds in, the Earthquakes improbably took the lead in the thanks to an excellent cross by Marvell Wynne.
Just when it looked like the San Jose attack had stalled, the right-back curled a left-footed cross that found the head of Wondolowski in the penalty area.
Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts saved the initial chance, but was in no position to deal with Shea Salinas’ headed rebound.
The goal was the veteran winger’s second in as many games and his third this season, a single-season record for Salinas.
San Jose thoroughly dominated LA throughout the entire first half. The Quakes nearly had a second goal in the 38th minute, when a Wondo header hit the far post after another excellent service from Wynne.
A dreadful start for the Galaxy got worse just three minutes after the restart, when center-back Leonardo was issued a straight red card for pulling down Quincy Amarikwa, who beat the Brazilian in a foot race for a one-on-one opportunity with Ricketts.
The Galaxy lost another defender in the 56th minute, after A.J. DeLaGarza was forced off with a left-knee injury.
The pace slowed down for the game’s final half-hour with neither side creating a serious chance.
The Quakes looks to continue this dream run in their second of a four game home stand, when they host Philadelphia Union next Saturday.