The Quakes’ journey to end a seven-game winless slide started well enough Saturday night at Avaya Stadium, but two red cards in the first hour didn’t make their job any easier.
The nine-man Quakes managed to get the job done anyways thanks to an admirable defensive showing and one impressive individual effort from Designated Player Simon Dawkins.
It was the first time in San Jose Earthquakes history that the club had won a game playing with nine men on the field, and only the 10th time in MLS history a team with nine men had achieved the feat.
The moment of the match came in 72nd minute of the play with the score drawn 1-1. Toronto had been bossing the game with some 60 percent possession and it took a quick counter to even get the ball onto the Toronto half of the field.
Once there however, Dawkins cut inside gracefully and shot past three defenders and a leaping keeper for a shocking go-ahead strike.
Coach Dom Kinnear said:
“Usually when you’re playing with 10 men, you’re going to need a lot of defending, but you’re going to need a little individual magic to win you the game, and obviously Simon’s play tonight was fantastic for us.”
The go-ahead goal shocked the defense and sent the crowd in a frenzy.
Dawkins said of the strike:
“We hadn’t had many chances in the second half, so if I could get a shot on target, it’d be great if it goes in and it did.”
The match’s opening score went to San Jose off the foot of Quincy Amarikwa, but credit goes to midfielder Fatai Alashe for getting forward to produce a clinically taken ground cross. All that was left for Amarikwa to do was to flick around keeper Alex Bono for the finish. It was Amarikwa’s second strike of the season, a total that in no way explains how much San Jose relies on the hardworking forward.
The goal gave San Jose their first lead in over two months, dating back to a 3-1 home win against the Houston Dynamo. It had been seven games since the Quakes had last been ahead in a game.
As the first half was coming to an end, the game seemed to be leaning heavily in favor of San Jose. Toronto needed a momentum shift and that’s just what they received in a 42nd minute red card to Quakes center midfielder Anibal Godoy. The Panamanian was sent off for a crunching tackle near the midfield, but the red card may have been seen as strict.
Up a man, Toronto FC pushed for a late first-half equalizer.
San Jose’s worst nightmare came to fruition as their ex-players Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow combined for a stoppage time equalizer. It was Morrow who tapped in the goal.
Early in the second half, the Quakes were pushed down to an ever daunting nine men as Alberto Quintero’s sliding challenge resulted in the second straight red of the game. Neither decision was a clear-cut red and the fans were infuriated with the controversial nature of the calls.
From that point on, the game appeared to become a question of how much San Jose could take. Much of the second half presented a barrage of Toronto possession and chances. San Jose’s backline, already forced by injury playing two defenders out of position, held together well.
Kinnear said of the impressive defensive showcase:
“It’s just that. The amount of possession by the other team, the amount of shifting you had to do. It was a real difficult game. And you’re playing a pretty good game too.”
After Dawkins found the back of the net, the momentum shifted again. It seemed Toronto were the side with it all to do. Their chances came fewer and less threateningly and the San Jose crowd was back in the match.
Toronto put everyone and everything forward in the final ten minutes. Countless times in the final minutes, the ball sat in front of a Toronto player near goal but an inspired San Jose side held on to secure an all important three points.
Kinnear felt the pressure as the game came to a close:
“The second half lasted about six hours.”
It very well might be the match of the season thus far for the Quakes and one of the more unlikely results in Major League Soccer.
“This definitely could be a turning point. It shows you the kind of attitude we have. Obviously things were against us, but the attitude was fantastic and that should be the attitude every game, no matter what. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.”
Wondolowski agreed this win was much-needed:
“We needed something to change our luck this season. And just our demeanor. We’ve been pretty frustrated and this is a good look for us right now.”
With the victory, San Jose move within three points of the sixth and final playoff spot. Portland currently resides there but with a game in hand, the Quakes will have an opportunity to move even next Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake.
The Quakes also continue their run of form at home, moving to 6-1-3 on the season.