Playoffs likely out of reach for TFC.TORONTO -- A Chris Wondolowski hat trick gave the visiting Earthquakes a key 3-2 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. With a converted penalty in the first and then a pair in the second, including one capping off a sensational passing play, Wondolowski now has four goals in his last two matches and two consecutive game-winning markers. Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos replied for the hosts, whose playoff chances have been effectively killed off with the loss.
Frank Yallop only made one change to the Earthquakes starting XI that beat the Union on September 15, with Ryan Johnson coming in at forward in place of Joey Gjertsen. For Toronto, Nick Dasovic implemented several adjustments to the TFC side that drew midweek with Cruz Azul, including the return of Chad Barrett.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to find the opening goal of the match. In only the 3rd minute, former Reading man Bobby Convey went down in the Toronto area under contact from Dan Gargan. Referee Kevin Stott immediately awarded a penalty much to the consternation of the BMO crowd. Up stepped Chris Wondolowski to the spot and the Chico State grad coolly hammered home.
After falling behind, the Reds attempted to open the match up and the ‘Quakes obliged, not falling back into a defensive shell, but also attempting to come forward and finding another.
TFC looked a good bet to equalize in the 17th. Dwayne De Rosario broke out against the run of play and headed up field. Going wide to Chad Barrett, the captain rushed to goal. Barrett, racing down the far touchline, sent in a curling cross looking for De Rosario and Maicon, who also had made his way into the area. The service was a good one, but just barely eluded the attempted redirections of the Toronto pair, as well as Jon Busch, and almost found its way into the far corner of the net on its own.
Five minutes later, the hosts tried a similar tact through Jacob Peterson. With Toronto jerseys piling into the San Jose box, Peterson drove in a low cross. Maicon did well to dive and get a head on it, but his effort cleared the ‘Quakes’ cross bar.
In the 25th, San Jose came forward with an odd-man rush. Wondolowski accepted a cross just outside of the Toronto area with his back to goal. Shaking off Raivis Hscanovics, the goal scorer turned and fired a beautifully rising shot that forced a fine save out of Frei. The Swiss ‘keeper leapt to just get enough on the drive to push it over the bar.
The ‘Quakes sustained the pressure over the next several minutes. Near the half-hour, Khani Stephenson cut into the Toronto area and drilled a shot on goal. The attempt was struck too well for Frei to hang on, but the goaltender was able to quickly collect what he had knocked down.
As the half progressed, Toronto seemed content with sending in speculative long balls from deep back in the midfield in hopes that somebody would be able to latch on down field. More often than not, this wasn’t the case. With the TFC attack rendered ineffective through this strategy, the ‘Quakes were more than happy to let them have at it.
Just before the whistle, San Jose would have one more chance to double their lead. Leading a ‘Quakes break forward, Geovanni was sloppily hauled down by Peterson just over 20 yards out from the TFC goal. Both Convey and Geovanni stood over the ensuing free kick, but it was the Brazilian who finally make the attempt on net. The former Hull Tiger sent in a beautiful curling effort that looked earmarked for the inside of the near post, if it weren’t for the diving intervention of Frei, who was able to parry. This was a tremendous effort from the ‘keeper to ensure his team remained in striking distance going into the final 45.
Much like the first half, the second opened fortuitously for San Jose. In the 53rd, a stunning passing play from the visitors was completed with Wondolowski’s third marker in two matches. Stephenson surprised Julian de Guzman with a quick back heel to Geovanni. The Brazilian then went wide to the touchline with an outlet to Johnson. Spotting a streaking Wondolowski unmarked in the Toronto area, the Jamaican calmly delivered in and Wondolowski drove home his second of the match. This was picture perfect passing with a poised finish from the Earthquakes.
With the wind now completely taken out of the crowd’s sails, the Reds tried whatever they could to try to get back into the match. In the 57th, Barrett tore down the right with an eye to goal. Eschewing a cross into Maicon, the striker had a go on his own from a sharp angle and sent a rising drive over the bar.
Only two minutes later, de Guzman’s curling cross found an unmarked Mista in the San Jose area, but the substitute’s free header went wide. Mista simply had to do better here.
Toronto would find its way on the board through De Rosario in the 66th. After Brandon McDonald prevented Barrett from making any headway into the area of his own, the striker centered for Mista at the edge of the area. Rather than shooting, the Spaniard went wide to De Rosario. The captain took a step into the area and then curled a beautiful sidefoot into the far side of the net, completely freezing Busch and making the score 2-1.
It took the Earthquakes only 45 seconds to restore its two-goal lead through, who else, but Wondolowski. Immediately from the restart, San Jose darted upfield through Johnson. Seeing a streaking Geovanni, the Jamaican crossed in, but his service was too far for his sliding strike partner. TFC was able to momentarily quell any danger, but their clearance only made it as far and Wondolowski at the edge of the area. Using the number of bodies in front of Frei as a screen, the former Dynamo man completed the hat trick with a low shot past the harried ‘keeper, making it 3-1 for San Jose.
The Reds refused to die. In the 72nd, Barrett did well to chest down a pass from de Guzman and then turn and fire at net on the bounce. Though, his drive went high, this was a tremendous piece of skill from Barrett.
Barrett would be crucial to the Reds pulling within one goal again. Substitute O’Brian White sent in a quick through ball for Barrett into the Earthquakes’ area. Barrett, heading to net, sent in a goal line cross to the trailing Maicon, who poked home to make it 3-2 in the 79th.
Frantically, the hosts looked to square matters, desperately pushing forward for an equalizer , which almost led to the nail in the coffin in the 85th. Miscommunication in the TFC midfield allowed the ‘Quakes to go back the other way in a three-on-one break. Wide left, Johnson crossed into the box for a wide open Geovanni. The Brazilian waited a fraction too long to shoot, which allowed Frei to come off his line to cut the angle and get a hand on his effort. Adrian Cann was able to clear well before it got close to the goal line.
The Reds should have had their third in the 90th. White, who had been lively since coming into the match, threaded a smartly timed through ball to Peterson, sending him in alone on goal. With time and space, the former Rapids man drilled well high, in what was simply a poor effort in a crucial moment.
The ‘Quakers weathered a late storm and held on for the precious victory. With full points, the Earthquakes now temporarily vault into fourth in the West, with their rivals yet to play this weekend. Toronto remains five points back of the final playoff spot, but that number could increase by the end of the weekend’s action.
Toronto will stay at home to host Real Salt Lake in Champions League action on Tuesday, while the Earthquakes head home looking to bury another potential playoff spot usurper in the Fire on Wednesday evening.
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