The San Jose Earthquakes scraped a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City courtesy of a second-half penalty from Chris Wondolowski. It was hardly the prettiest of victories and the Quakes nearly paid for a languid first-half performance, with SKC coming close on multiple occasions. Yet Dominic Kinnear’s men have a knack for nicking wins out of nowhere and once again Wondo’s consistency helped bail out a sluggish performance and secure the result.
Whereas the Quakes were oddly possession-oriented in their 3-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers last weekend, the pendulum swung in the other direction on Sunday afternoon and the home side hardly had a single chance of note bar Wondo’s penalty.
Their visitors should have had a spot-kick of their own just minutes into the second-half when Dom Dwyer was hacked down by Andres Imperiale on a promising breakaway, but Peter Vermes’ men slumped to their fourth defeat in five matches.
Here are our three takeaways from the match:
Dawkins yet to fill Quakes midfield void
The Quakes can display a disconnect in the midfield at times. Anibal Godoy started alongside Fatai Alashe in a midfield pivot with Alberto Quintero and Simon Dawkins out wide and given both Godoy and Alashe are defensively-oriented players, the responsibility for incisive, creative attacking play fell onto Quintero and Dawkins’ shoulders.
Yet they fell somewhat short and although Quintero looked promising on the ball, he is yet to truly gel into the team.
Dawkins, meanwhile, looked lethargic and very sloppy on the ball, with the worst pass completion rate in the Quakes’ midfield. He is yet to score this season and with just a single assist, he has so far failed to make the desired impact in his second spell with San Jose apart from a few glimpses of quality.
Although it hardly helped operating on Shaun Francis’ left wing, Dawkins’ mistakes nearly cost the Quakes against SKC if not for David Bingham.
Shea Salinas, who has appeared in every one of the Quakes’ last forty-four MLS outings, has made a bigger impact then Dawkins this season from the bench and has done more to earn the starting position.
He would fill in the gap in pace the Quakes have versus many rivals, and his dangerous crossing game plays to Wondolowski’s strength. Wondo would almost certainly score goals if he and Salinas were given time to gel and the winger might be able to fill the void in midfield where Dawkins has thus far fallen short.
Wondolowski on track for record-breaking season
Wondolowski’s seventh goal in eight games so far this season restored his place atop Major League Soccer’s goalscoring charts. The American forward is enjoying his joint-most prolific start to the season in his career, alongside the Quakes’ successful 2012 regular season campaign.
Although he was quiet for the majority of the ninety minutes and had the fewest touches of any Quakes players to play the full ninety minutes, he popped up to score his tenth consecutive successful effort from the spot. He was instrumental in winning the penalty, ghosting in to force a great save out of Tim Melia, who was second-best to the rebound, bringing down Simon Dawkins.
“It’s a 12-yard shot and with a one-on-one with the keeper, you should make them. That’s always been my philosophy,” said Wondo. “You’re not going to always make them. I definitely vividly remember the ones I missed. I missed one against Dallas two years ago. It is what it is. I work on them. I literally work on them every day at practice. I take some. You have to have different philosophies going up there and today it was put my laces through and try to hit a corner.”
He has picked up the slack where the Quakes’ midfield has lacked in goalscoring return this season and is on his way to becoming one of the best MLS finishers of all time. It was the 116th MLS regular season goal of his career and nobody in MLS history has reached that tally in as many appearances as Wondolowski.
With twenty-eight more goals in his career, Wondo could surpass Landon Donovan’s goalscoring record and truly cement himself as the greatest goalscorer MLS has seen.
Scrappy defense does just enough to stall SKC
Within the first ten minutes of the game, Sporting Kansas City had carved multiple good looks at goal. Brad Davis sliced a low effort wide from twenty-five yards and David Bingham scrambled back to tip over Benny Feilhaber’s chip. Rodger Espinosa tested the American goalkeeper yet again with a dipping volley front twenty-five yards and Peter Vermes’ men came to rue their missed opportunities.
San Jose did just enough to deny SKC any golden opportunities, but if it weren’t for another solid performance from Bingham, the visitors almost certainly would have found the back of the net sooner or later. SKC should have had a penalty when Dwyer slipped in-between the Quakes’ center-backs and Imperiale made a late, lunging challenge inside the box.
Although the Argentine full-back has stepped up to the plate with admirable confidence in the wake of Clarence Goodson’s back troubles, but the cracks are beginning to appear. Imperiale went in the book for another late tackle after he allowed Dwyer to turn twenty yards out from goal.
Shaun Francis was caught way out position on multiple occasions and although Dawkins tucked in to cover, it nearly cost the Quakes dearly when the winger misjudged a long ball and let Saad Abdul-Salaam racing in on goal. Bingham was quick of his line to deny Salaam the angle, but the warning signs were there. Graham Zusi also forced Bingham into a fantastic save and it took scrappy, and at times desperate defending for the Quakes to keep SKC off the board.
Vermes’ men have lost four of their last five matches and after starting the season with three consecutive victories, their early momentum is stalling.
Said Feilhaber: “It’s a frustrating loss, because I think we prepared really well for this game. I thought we played well. Definitely deserved more. If I were to be honest I’d probably say something stupid so I won’t say anything else.”
“We felt really good this week and I think it showed on the field. I think another day maybe we take three points so we’re frustrated with the result for sure.”