SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A point might have done against a Crew side unbeaten in seven, especially after a first half stalemate in which neither team looked particularly like scoring. However, the San Jose Earthquakes exploded for three goals early in the second half to put an emphatic end to a six game win-less streak.
Chris Wondolowski found the corner of the net with a side-foot volley to open the scoring, with the goal standing as his second game-winning goal of the season and his fifth overall, catapulting him into third place in the MLS scoring charts.
Stephen Lenhart nodded home from a corner (possibly off of Brandon McDonald’s backside) with Khari Stephenson completing the rout on 62 minutes with a blast from outside the area. And just like that, the Earthquakes had earned their first home win of 2011.
“To win 3-0 at home and thoroughly deserve to win 3-0 was great,” remarked Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop.
However, after a fairly flat first half where each team managed just two fairly weak shots on goal, the onus was on Yallop and the Earthquakes to change things up and get the first positive home result of the year.
The goals flowed almost immediately after halftime, as San Jose imposed itself physically on the game and started to find holes in a Crew defense that had been typically stingy throughout the first 45 minutes.
“We weren't traveling with the ball much. They were forcing us to knock long balls up to Lenny [Lenhart] and Wondo [Wondolowksi],” Yallop explained. “When we did that, I didn't think Khari [Stephenson] and Brad [Ring] were squeezing, I didn't think the back four was getting out quick enough, then the ball was dropping down, then there was a big gap, and then they were running at us.”
Wondolowski added, “I felt it was kind of a boxed match, just both teams feeling each other out. Not really trying to make any mistakes.”
With the team playing more as a unit in the second, San Jose was able to put some sustained pressure on the Crew defense, which led to three goals in the span of 12 minutes.
“At halftime I had a chat, and soon as we chat, the ball traveled, we squeezed as a unit and then off we go,” Yallop explained.
Wondolowski highlighted the need for the team to take control early on in the second half in order to secure the best possible result for the team.
“Second half we knew that we were going to have to come out ready to go, come out flying and I felt that we knew that first 15 minutes was going to be huge and we took advantage of that, created three opportunities and finished them, so it was big for us.”
Steven Lenhart in particular exemplified the idea of putting sustained pressure on his former team, drawing praise from both Yallop and his teammates for his constant effort.
“I think you have to give a lot of credit to Lenhart and Ryan Johnson,” said Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald of his team’s outburst. "I think Lenhart particularly puts his body up there and R.J. running down that left wing, it's trouble.”
On Wondolowski’s opener, Lenhart was able to draw two Columbus defenders on to him in order to open up space for Wondolowski to bag a comfortable finish.
“[I try] to get away and try and draw guys away, and Wondo’s good. He makes his own space, He knows what he’s doing, and it was a good finish,” Lenhart explained.
Lenhart’s fine evening against his old team continued, as he redirected a Joey Gjertsen corner into the net for the second before using his strength to open up space for Khari Stephenson to ice the game.
The key for success on Saturday could be any one of Lenhart’s strong play up top, the increased fight shown by the Earthquakes or a more aggressive style of play. Or all three. Whatever the case, though, the Earthquakes will be looking to replicate the winning formula next weekend against New England and once and for all shake off the early season blues.
You can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter for more Earthquakes and MLS chatter @nicholasrosano.
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