In one of the more physical MLS games to date, neither San Jose nor Toronto got the edge, not in goals (1-1) nor in cautions (4-4).
Play was stagnant throughout the first quarter of the match - and that’s being generous. Not a single play in either team’s attacking third threatened goal. Toronto earned a corner kick in the 15th minute, and even that was more anticlimactic than your garden-variety defensive clearance. On the set piece, a foul was called on TFC before the ball was even in the box.
San Jose’s first chance at goal came in the 17th minute. It was not a sexy setup whatsoever. Ryan Johnson freed himself on the left flank and attempted a cross. He struck the ball poorly and it found its way through a number of players until Simon Dawkins ran onto it 25 yards out. His shot, however, was off target. Johnson was given another chance two minutes later, but also missed wide left.
TFC opened the scoring up in the 27th minute. Like the rest of play throughout the first half, it wasn’t pretty. But unlike the first 26-plus minutes, it was effective.
TFC’s Alen Stevanovic slid a pass from the left flank to a streaking Danleigh Borman at the edge of the box. Borman took a touch and hit a cross, deflected by Bobby Convey, into the six. Sam Cronin was in the perfect position to head the ball out, but instead flicked it to the middle of the six, catching Quakes keeper Jon Busch out of position. All Alan Gordon needed to do was tap it into the vacant goal, which he did successfully, giving the Red’s an early lead.
San Jose’s confidence didn’t falter after going down, however. Chris Wondolowksi deked out a defender and got into the box before laying a pass back to Khari Stephenson. Stephenson’s shot sprayed wide, right to Johnson whose shot, targeted for inside the near post, was pushed out by a diving one-hand stop by TFC keeper Stefan Frei.
Dawkins, who tallied his first MLS goal a week ago, made it two in two weeks when he pulled the Earthquakes even in the 38th minute.
Dawkins controlled the ball 40 yards out on the left flank. As he made his way center, he played the ball to Wondolowski, who one-touched a pass back to the ongoing Dawkins. With his marking back on his left, Dawkins kept the ball on his right foot in the box and tapped it past Frei and into the far side netting.
San Jose kept up its momentum that it garnered towards the end of the first half and maintained possesion in the early stages. In the 51st minute, Stephenson flipped a pass to Wondolowski. As TFC defenders appealed for an offside call, Wondolowski played on and ripped a shot on goal. Like he was a week ago, Wondolowski was victim of a “MLS Save of the Week” caliber save, as Frei laid out to stop the 2010 Golden Boot winner.
Despite calling an inordinate amount of yellow cards, head official Ramon Hernandez was reluctant to blow the whistle on would-be infractions in the box - both in favor of TFC. In the first half, there was an evident hand ball that was not blown; in the second half, in the 61st minute, a duo of TFC defenders appeared to pull down Wondolowski in the box, but no call was made.
San Jose had a number of free kick opportunities on the Toronto side of the pitch. The Quakes strategy was to loft the ball into the center of the TFC box. However, each attempt on targeting a player in the box was denied by Frei, who jumped over the pack of players to snag the ball.
Official Hernandez again was put in the situation of making a call in the box. In the 87th minute, he finally did. Again the Quakes were pressuring Frei’s goal, and Wondolowski had the ball on his feet inside the area. After making a move to his right foot, and before taking a shot, he was tripped up. Hernandez made his call, giving Wondolowski a yellow for diving.
Toronto FC later had a chance to feel the Quakes pain when in added time, Martina was tripped up in the Quakes box, but no call was made.
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