SANTA CLARA, CA - Playing their first match in the month of April, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-1L-2D) suffered their first defeat of the 2012 Major League Soccer season after a 3-1 loss at Western Conference rivals San Jose Earthquakes (4W-1L-0D) on Saturday afternoon.
In what was an eventful Easter weekend clash in Northern California, all the goals came in the second half, with Sebastien Le Toux giving Whitecaps FC the lead before San Jose claimed a third-straight league victory with three goals in 10 minutes. Chris Wondolowski equalized and added an insurance goal for the Earthquakes, while substitute Alan Gordon scored the match winner for the home side at Buck Shaw Stadium. Today's defeat ends Whitecaps FC’s unbeaten run to start the season at four matches, though they earned the consolation of setting a new MLS record for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal to start a season at 427 minutes.
“I thought we looked really comfortable and never at any point felt in danger after we scored,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. “Yet, from nowhere in a short space of time, we switched off and we’ve lost three goals and lost the game. It’s really hard to believe. There are lots to build on and I have no doubt that we’ll come back strong. The feeling of losing is something you can’t be scared of. You just have to use it to motivate you to get better.”
Rennie made two changes for Saturday’s game, bringing Gershon Koffie back into the ‘Caps midfield for Matt Watson, while Budweiser Man of the Match Eric Hassli replaced the suspended Atiba Harris in the Vancouver attack. Former Canadian international Frank Yallop gave ex-Whitecaps FC winger Shea Salinas a start in midfield for San Jose.
A beautiful spring afternoon drew a sold-out crowd of 10,525 to the campus of Santa Clara University, and they saw Whitecaps FC look more dangerous with their attacking movement in the opening 45 minutes, especially in the San Jose half. Hassli was determined to test Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch, having three efforts towards goal in the first half-hour of the contest. On 33 minutes, the big Frenchman turned provider with a well-placed cross to strike partner Le Toux, but his toe poke went straight to Busch.
The best chance of the half fell to Vancouver on 40 minutes, as Hassli and playmaker Davide Chiumiento had the San Jose backline scrambling in their own box. The loose ball fell kindly to John Thorrington, but his first-time finish struck the Earthquakes’ crossbar before Chiumiento’s overhead strike on the rebound was blocked away by San Jose centre back Victor Bernardez.
San Jose’s best chance of the opening half fell to Salinas, who forced ‘Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon into an excellent save from his curling strike in stoppage time. It meant both clubs went to halftime in a goalless stalemate.
The breakthrough of goals was realized in the second half, and it was Whitecaps FC that looked favourites to find the back of the net multiple times right after the restart. They drew first blood on 49 minutes, as Le Toux scored his second goal of the season following a neat move in the San Jose box off Jordan Harvey’s throw-in. Hassli neatly set up his fellow Frenchman to slot a first-time shot into the far corner of the Quakes goal for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.
The goal brought about an exciting spell of attacking play from Whitecaps FC, with Busch making key saves from Hassli’s half-volleyed strike and Martin Bonjour at close range on 56 minutes. Two minutes later, the visitors made strong appeals for a penalty on Thorrington, who went down in the San Jose six-yard box, as he tried to connect with Hassli’s dangerous cross.
Yet, just as Whitecaps FC seemed in the ascendency, San Jose stunned their Canadian opponents by turning the game around in their favour. With a new MLS shutout record set, a fifth-straight Vancouver clean sheet ended on 68 minutes, as Wondolowski caught Whitecaps FC napping from captain Ramiro Corrales’ throw-in. The Earthquakes marksman got a step on the ‘Caps defence before chipping Cannon at close range to make it 1-1. Then only four minutes after conceding for the first time this season, Vancouver found themselves behind. Corrales was the provider again, putting over a fine cross that Gordon expertly headed into the far corner of the net for San Jose’s match winner.
In what became a nightmare 10-minute spell for the ‘Caps, the Earthquakes secured all three points with a second goal from Wondolowski on 78 minutes. Substitute Tressor Moreno swung over a free kick that found the goalscorer unmarked at the far post. His first-time finish made it 3-1 and took Wondolowski’s goalscoring total versus Whitecaps FC to five from three match-ups all-time.
Left in shock by the change of events, even a late set of chances could not turn the tide back Vancouver’s way, as the final whistle confirmed a first league defeat in 2012 for Whitecaps FC. Rennie’s side will return home and take an extended break before hosting in-form Sporting Kansas City on Bell Pitch at BC Place on Wednesday, April 18. San Jose, meanwhile, head east to face another in-form MLS side in New York Red Bulls next Saturday.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Eric Hassli
49' - VAN - Sebastien Le Toux (Eric Hassli, Jordan Harvey)
68' - SJ - Chris Wondolowski (Ramiro Corrales)
72' - SJ - Alan Gordon (Ramiro Corrales)
78' - SJ - Chris Wondolowski (Tressor Moreno)
Shots: San Jose 11 - Vancouver 16
Shots on Goal: San Jose 5 - Vancouver 6
Saves: San Jose 5 - Vancouver 2
Fouls: San Jose 10 - Vancouver 12
Offsides: San Jose 2 - Vancouver 2
Corners: San Jose 4 - Vancouver 4
11' - VAN - Jun Marques Davidson
37' - VAN - Martin Bonjour
45'+ - VAN - Young-Pyo Lee
92' - SJ - Ramiro Corrales
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 15.Martin Bonjour, 6.Jay DeMerit, 3.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 27.Jun Marques Davidson (37.Camilo Sanvezzo 76'), 20.Davide Chiumiento, 11.John Thorrington (16.Matt Watson 78'); 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 29.Eric Hassli
Substitutes not used: 18.Brad Knighton, 17.Omar Salgado, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 23.Long Tan, 32.Greg Klazura
San Jose Earthquakes
18.Jon Busch; 33.Steven Beitashour, 26.Victor Bernardez, 15.Justin Morrow, 12.Ramiro Corrales; 6.Shea Salinas, 4.Sam Cronin (7.Khari Stephenson 68'), 30.Rafael Baca, 81.Marvin Chavez (11.Tressor Moreno 38'); 8.Chris Wondolowski, 10.Simon Dawkins (16.Alan Gordon 52')
Substitutes not used: 1.David Bingham, 5.Brad Ring, 21.Jason Hernandez, 55.Ike Opara