Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Don’t look now, but the San Jose Earthquakes are working their way back into the playoff picture with nine matches remaining.
Following a dismal start to the season which included just three wins in their first 15 games, the Earthquakes have won four out of five to put themselves two points out of fifth place in the Western Conference.
And on Saturday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium, Chris Wondolowski’s second-half header was the difference as the Earthquakes topped Sporting Kansas City, 1-0. It’s the third loss in four matches for Sporting KC.
Despite playing without Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi due to injuries, Sporting KC was on the front foot for the majority of the first half. Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson came up big for his new side as well on both sides of the field, forcing Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to make a diving stop in the 33rd minute on a header, while providing strong defense alongside Victor Bernardez to keep the visitors away from goal.
In the 55th minute, the breakthrough finally came. A Sam Cronin cross was deflected to his Earthquakes teammate Steven Beitashour, who sent a looping ball towards Wondolowski in the box. The U.S. Men’s National Team member jumped and perfectly guided a header past Nielsen to send the crowd of 10,525 to their feet, despite suspicions of offside.
Sporting KC’s Teal Bunbury nearly tied the match with a close range finish in the 59th minute, but was denied by Goodson, who came from out of no where to deflect Bunbury’s shot. In the 85th minute, Rafael Baca nearly scored the insurance goal for his Earthquakes club but just sent his effort wide. When the whistle blew for full time, it ensured that Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch had won his 100th career game, and on his birthday no less.
Here are the game highlights: