SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In front of 8,674 fans at Buck Shaw Stadium, the San Jose Earthquakes were able to take down the MLS Western Conference second-place squad Colorado Rapids, 1-0.
Ryan Johnson got the first golden opportunity of the match, running onto a loose ball behind the Rapids defense in the second minute, but his shot went right into the gut of keeper Matt Pickens.
Bobby Convey worked his way into the Rapids box in the 13th minute, but had the ball wrestled away from his foot before he could rifle a shot.
Conor Casey had the Rapids first decent chance at goal in the 27th minute, heading a cross by Mehdi Ballouchy toward net, but was well defended and the shot rolled off target. Casey had an even better shot at net in the 32nd minute, beating Jason Hernandez to the ball in the box before unloading a left-footed blast that went just wide.
Just one minute after the Casey opportunity, the Quakes got on the board. Ramiro Corrales sent a long ball from his defensive position, targeting Johnson. Johnson tipped the ball to an overlapping Chris Wondolowski who took his first touch at goal, beating Pickens high, hitting the lower part of the crossbar and in for a Quakes 1-0 lead.
After the goal, both teams went from primarily focused on possession, to resorting to hard-nosed physicality, with several players on each side getting knocked to the turf.
Joe Cannon kept his Earthquakes in the drivers’ seat in the 45th minute, laying out to stop a Wells Thompson blast batting it away from goal, then pouncing on it for safe measure.
San Jose went into the locker room with that same 1-0 edge, but Colorado picking up momentum. Colorado wracked up eight shots, but only put one on net, while the Earthquakes put both its shots on net, tallying the only goal of the game through 45 minutes.
Colorado was able to maintain the momentum they were ratcheting up toward the end of the first half and controlled the possession for the early going in the second half.
However, the best opportunity of the early going, in the 53rd minute, came from the Quakes’ Joey Gjertsen, who capitalized on a Rapids mishit in the backfield, but was denied by Pickens.
Pablo Mastroeni beat Cannon to his right just one minute after the Gjertsen effort, but missed the target by a couple feet, going out for a goal kick. Colorado resumed the majority of the possession after the Mastroeni try for the next five minutes, culminating in a Danny Earls strike that was corralled by Cannon.
San Jose’s ensuing rush down the field nearly resulted in a goal, but Gjertsen’s low, hard cross toward goal was cleared away from danger by a diving Drew Moor header.
Casey appeared to have tied the score in the 65th minute when he received a ball at the edge of the 18-yard box, turned and hit in in the lower corner by Cannon, but the goal was called back when Casey was ruled offside.
As Casey and the Rapids became more visibly frustrated with the calls going against them (and non-calls going against their favor), the Quakes nearly doubled its lead in the 67th minute when Gjertsen hooked up with Brandon McDonald just outside the box, but McDonald’s shot whistled wide of the target.
San Jose reverted into a defensive mindset for the duration of the match, while Colorado picked up its pressure trying to grab the equalizer. The Rapids continued to target Casey to no avail with the Earthquakes doubling him at every opportunity.
Colorado had a couple opportunities late to tie the game, being awarded a couple free kicks in scoring range. The first opportunity in the 86th minute was blocked by the Earthquakes wall, while the second one, a shot by Ballouchy, was slammed high of the target.
And to close out the match, in stoppage time, the Rapids threatened the Quakes goal numerous times, but San Jose was quick to pounce on the ball, and clear it away from danger, holding on for the one-goal win.