The San Jose Earthquakes crashed out of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament with a 1-0 loss to the three-time defending champions Seattle Sounders in front of a crowd of 7,219 at historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. A first half goal from Sounders rookie midfielder Cordell Cato proved to be the difference for the visitors when the Earthquakes were unable to continue their season of late-game magic and find an equalizing goal.
The win-or-go-home nature of the tournament resulted in a fiercely competitive game, which featured numerous yellow cards to both teams, a straight red card to Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon, and a post game melee resulting from the intense emotions surrounding the match. Forward Chris Wondolowski, who entered as a second half substitute, recognized just how hard each team was going for the victory.
“We’re both good teams this year so there will be a lot of fight and a lot of heart,” said Wondolowski. “You put 22 guys on a small field, a bumpy field, with a referee that let a lot of stuff go, and there’s going to be a lot of fire.”
Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop used everything at his disposal to try to knock off the three-time champions, but the Sounders proved resolute despite the heavy pressure put on them by the San Jose offense.
“You have to give Seattle credit for the way they defended, especially the last 35 minutes,” said Yallop. “We just couldn’t quite get that touch in front of goal. We pushed the issue on what was a difficult pitch and went direct but couldn’t score.”
Facing a setting sun to start the game and field conditions that were far from pristine, the Earthquakes found it difficult to muster up anything on offense early on. It took until the 9th minute for San Jose to find a seam in the Seattle defense. Rafael Baca, with space to work with on the left sideline, carried the ball into the top corner of the area and squared a pass to an onrushing Shea Salinas 15 yards from goal. The Quakes winger had trouble settling the ball and his weakly taken shot was comfortably saved by Sounders goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
The Sounders began to turn the momentum to their advantage over the next quarter hour, and were rewarded for their efforts in the 19th minute when they broke through for the game’s opening goal. A pass across the top of the Earthquakes penalty area was misjudged by defender Ike Opara and fell to the feet of Sounders midfielder Cato. With Justin Morrow stabbing at the loose ball, Cato rounded the Earthquakes defender and drove the ball to the endline. The Sounders rookie’s shot across goal took a slight deflection and managed to sneak the ball through the legs of goalkeeper David Bingham and into the goal for a Seattle 1-0 lead.
“I think we gave the ball away poorly in the midfield which didn’t help,” said Yallop. “We still had a chance to defend it and we didn’t. The shot took a nick off of somebody and it was not easy for the goalkeeper.”
Following an ineffective opening half for San Jose, coach Yallop went to his bench early in the second half in an effort to bolster his offense. Regular first-teamers Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, along with speedy Marvin Chavez were all inserted into the line-up with an eye toward cracking the resolute Sounders defense. Instead, the frustration mounted for the home side, as they were able to consistently deliver the ball into the Seattle area, but they were not able to create a single shot on goal.
With tempers boiling over and physical play being ramped up a notch or two by both sides as the game dragged toward a conclusion, referee Yader Reyes was required to be more active in keeping the match in control. Yellow card cautions for hard tackles went to Gordon and Morrow for the Earthquakes and Zach Scott, Andy Rose and Marc Burch for the Sounders were all issued in the second half.
As the match entered six minutes of stoppage time, the Earthquakes continued to press for the equalizer in the midst of the chippy play. The 93rd minute saw things come to a boil, as Burch fouled Gordon hard from behind, sending the Quakes forward to the turf and earning Burch his yellow card. However, Gordon then sprang back up and headbutted Burch from behind, leaving San Jose with just 10 men, in an eerily similar meltdown to Zinadine Zidane’s in the 2002 World Cup final.
A throw-in from Steven Beitashour in the 95th minute was flicked toward the mix of players and popped out to the top of area. Defender Victor Bernardez stepped into the loose ball and unleashed a volley that took a deflection off a defender. The Earthquakes claimed a hand ball against Seattle, but the referee did not agree. “It looked a hand ball,” said Yallop. “I thought we had a couple calls that could have gone our way. That’s being diplomatic.”
Wondolowski, who protested vehemently at the time of the disputed play to referee Reyes, was much less diplomatic than his coach.
“The hand ball was very clear,” said Wondolowski. “The defender made a last ditch effort just to save the goal. And it was a good ‘save,’ one that Busch or Bingham would be proud of.”
The match ended a minute later, and the two teams engaged in a significant melee on the field between the two team benches brought about because of a confrontation between Sounders forward Eddie Johnson and Quakes defender Jed Zayner. The latter accused the former of hitting him in the face, but the former had no comment on the incident. Both teams engaged in some pushing and shoving, but eventually separated and went their own ways to their locker rooms. The video replay does show Zayner making contact with Johnson right before the supposed punch.
“There’s always a rivalry between us and Seattle,” said Yallop. “We beat them once this year, and they beat us in the Cup. We’ll play them twice again this year, so we have got to look forward to that.”
While Seattle moves forward in the US Open Cup tournament to the semifinal round, San Jose focuses on a weekend match against rival Los Angeles Galaxy at a sold-out Stanford Stadium this Saturday, June 30.
Seattle Sounders FC at San Jose Earthquakes
June 26, 2012 — Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, Calif.
SEA — Cordell Cato (unassisted) 19
SJ — Alan Gordon (caution) 49
SEA — Zach Scott (caution) 51
SJ — Justin Morrow (caution) 75
SEA — Andy Rose (caution) 82
SJ — Alan Gordon (ejection) 93
SEA — Marc Burch (caution) 94
San Jose Earthquakes — David Bingham, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Ike Opara, Justin Morrow, Rafael Baca (Marvin Chavez 80), Sam Cronin, Tressor Moreno (Steven Lenhart 53), Shea Salinas, Khari Stephenson (Chris Wondolowski 53), Alan Gordon.
Statistics: Total Shots: 7; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 4; Fouls: 12; Offside: 3; Corner Kicks: 11.
Seattle Sounders FC — Andrew Weber, Brad Evans, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Cordell Cato (Marc Burch 82), Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose, Alvaro Fernadez (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 89), Roger Levesque, Sammy Ochoa (Eddie Johnson 75).
Statistics: Total Shots: 8; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 4; Fouls: 9; Offside: 1; Corner Kicks: 3.