After 56 consecutive starts, Earthquakes all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski began Saturday’s game on the bench.
The move was one of several as San Jose (1-2-2) made noticeable changes to the system it had used in its first four games.
Wondolowski said about starting from the bench:
“It’s the role coach asked me to play. It was definitely different. That’s part of the game. I’ve gotten to come of the bench a couple of times for the U.S. team and so I like to prepare myself and be ready. I love playing, but I love winning, being part of a winning team and culture is all I care about now.”
A late goal from substitute Jahmir Hyka earned the Quakes a 2-2 draw, salvaging a late point against the Houston Dynamo (1-2-2) at Avaya Stadium.
Giving up another second-half lead, San Jose was able to rally back, thanks to a helping from two of the three subs made by coach Mikael Stahre. The trio combined to net the late equalizer.
Wondolowski’s rare benching wasn’t the only change to the lineup, rather one of five, including switching standout defender Nick Lima, who had been on the right side in the previous four games, over to the left side of the defense. The Quakes also played with a 4-3-3 formation, a change from the 4-2-2 previously deployed.
“It’s always hard to select the lineup, and in this game it was a tactical reason to play 4-3-3. We wanted to add one more player to the midfield to make it easier for us to control the ball.”
Francois Affolter made his first appearance for the Quakes in the heart of the defense, in place for the suspended Harold Cummings.
Both teams traded off possession for the first 20 minutes of the game probing each other before trying anything big. Finally, when momentum was their for the taking, the Quakes capitalized.
After a hard foul on Captain Anibal Godoy in the 24th minute, San Jose was given a free kick just outside the box. Forwards Magnus Eriksson and Danny Hoesen orbited around the ball before Hoesen stepped up only to hit it right into the defenders on the wall. The free kick looked like wasted opportunity until the ball came back into the box where Jackson Yueill found himself all alone. A quick turn caused the nearest defender to fall stumble over granting the 21-year-old an extra second to execute a pass right into the path of a charging Eriksson.
The Swede one-timed the ball for his second goal of the season, from just outside the box perfectly with his left foot and into the bottom right corner past the outstretched Dynamo keeper Chris Seitz’s arms giving San Jose the 1-0 lead.
The Dynamo attempted an answer ten minutes later. Midfielder Tomas Martinez sent in a beautiful cross from the left flank onto the head of Alberth Elis, who headed down a harmless ball into the arms of Quake goalie Andrew Tarbell on a dive.
San Jose really needed to flex their home field advantage and take a 2-0 lead into the half after a perfect free kick from Eriksson just missed the head of Hoesen. The Dutch striker was able to regain his feet, collect a pass from Yueill and from a tight angle, fire a right-footed shot that was turned away by the Houston keeper for a corner.
The Dynamo would not flame out easily, knotting the game up just two minutes into the second half.
An unfriendly bounce and defensive mistake ultimately led to Thomas Martinez scoring his first goal of the year, shooting a left-footed shot from deep inside the box into Yefferson Quintana’s leg, causing a deflection sending it past Tarbell.
Houston wouldn’t stop there taking, the lead in the 63rd min from a quick counter.
Alberth Elis made a run down the left side of the field beating Lima to a stretch pass. Elis then sent in a low cross into the surging path of Mauro Manotas who finished it off from very close range shot right down the middle of the goal.
Things almost went from bad to worse for the Quakes when Houston nearly added a third, likely finishing off the game. Andrew Wenger received a pass from deep that took out the San Jose defense, squared it to Martinez leading to a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. Looking to get his second goal of the day, Martinez lined up a left-footed shot right into Tarbell’s leg, after the keeper had seen the danger and ran out to close out the Argentinians angle on goal.
Out of his seven saves on the day, that one appeared to be the most crucial, setting the stage for a frantic final ten minutes.
Impact substitute Jahmir Hyka scored the equalizer in the 85th minute after a saving pass from fellow sub Quincy Amarikwa. Hyka making his first appearance all season, charged up a right-footed shot from outside the box, taking a deflection on the way towards goal causing the keeper to react late.
Hyka said it was difficult biding his time:
“It’s not easy when you are on the bench all the time, but I think like a professional you have to keep working and wait for your chance, and when the chance is there try your best. Thank god today was my chance and I scored the goal to help the team.”
The second straight draw for the Quakes keeps them in the bottom third of the Western Conference for at least another week. They sit tied with these same Dynamo in ninth place, five points apiece, though San Jose trails Houston by a 2-goal difference.
Coach Stahre said of the result:
“I think the first half was not good but it was still 1-0 at halftime. We are really disappointed to just end up 2-2 at home, we have to win these kind of games that’s for sure.”
The Quakes look to break their losing road form next week when they visit Orlando City Stadium to take on Orlando City SC on Saturday.