For eleven years, Chris Wondolowski has been terrorizing Major League Soccer defenders with his movement and finishing. He is not a playmaker and will seldom create his own chances, but Wondo will bury his shots at the slightest opportunity, and few men play more to his skill-set than Shea Salinas.
Salinas was again the catalyst as the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0 at Avaya Stadium, setting up Wondo with a lovely assist in the second half.
Salinas had the ball down the left flank and only had to look up for a the briefest of moments to find Wondo.
“I like to think we lock eyes,” laughed Wondo.
The winger whipped a gorgeous ball onto the head of Wondo, who ghosted in behind his marker to head home his 114th career MLS goal, taking him joint fourth in the league’s all-time scoring charts. This was a typical poacher’s finish, but Wondo has learned to take them how they come. Where he lacks in style he makes up for with ruthless consistency.
It was his fifth goal in six games this season and his consistency has been vital up front given the Quakes have seldom found their rhyt hm in the attack for a full ninety minutes so far this season. His goal was the bright spot in an otherwise homely performance from the home side.
“New York does a great job of pressing and I think they made it very difficult for us,” said Wondo. “I think we started to make better decisions and it was a gritty game. You look at the DC game, I thought we played prettier and got a tie, but I’ll take these games and three points all day.”
Although the Red Bulls had the upper hand in terms of possession, the Quakes defended resolutely and, as it were, got the rub of the green up front. New York were well aware of Avaya Stadium’s slippery playing surface, but it cost them dearly at critical moments in the game.
They’ve only won one out of five games this season and coach Jesse Marsch sighed: “We try to be a team who plays with no fear, but we lack that right now.
“The game was there for us to take…and I sound like a broken record but when you get in these ruts it feels like a long time.”
The visitors pressed high up the pitch early on, trying to expose Matias Perez Garcia down the left. Yet the midfielder continued his active effort to put in more work off the ball and his hustle plays lead to both of the Quakes’ goals.
Felipe forced Bingham into an awkward save with a low, bobbling effort from long range and Shaun Wright-Phillips wriggled a tame volley on goal from the edge of the box in the twenty-third minute.
The Quakes struggled to string passes together early on, and apart from a meek volley from Tommy Thompson from fifteen yards, they had nothing in the way of chances at the outset.
The game began to open up around the half hour mark and Wondolowski so nearly gave the Quakes a surprise opener on the break in the thirty-second minute. Felipe slipped near the hallway line and Wondo was on hand to collect the ball and break away.
He carried the ball across the pitch and into the box, having just enough pace to stay ahead of Felipe, and dragged a low effort inches wide of the far post.
The game was there for the Red Bulls to take, but Fatai Alashe had a fortunate deflection on the brink of the half to give the Quakes a surprise opener.
Garcia laid the ball off for Alashe on the edge of the box and the midfielder sent a tame, side-footed effort in the vague direction of the goal. But it got an all-important deflect on its way through a crowded box to send it bobbling into the bottom corner of the net.
He appeared slightly surprised himself, dropping to his knees to celebrate. But the Quakes know more than any other team in MLS to take the goals as they come.
Wondolowski grabbed a second goal on the other side of the half, but it was far from over.
Abang should have closed the margin in the fifty-seventh minute when he found himself in one-on-one with Bingham after a defensive mix-up, only to slip right when the golden opportunity presented itself.
Sal Zizzo came close and Kljestan rose up above Imperiale soon afterwards, but couldn’t get enough power on his header to beat Bingham.
Grella got in behind Wynne in the seventy-eight minute and opened up from a far-post effort from ten yards, but Bingham stretched himself for a fantastic save to tip the ball wide.
Kinnear always maintains that there are no “bad wins,” and although this was at times a patchy and not wholly convincing performance from the home side, it was far from poor.