Free kicks in San Jose's offensive arsenal
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s not enough for the San Jose Earthquakes to keep coming up with goals by the bushel. Apparently, the Quakes have to keep widening their fields of expertise.
After proving themselves adept at cashing in crosses from deep on the wing and scoring off of corner kicks en route to grabbing the league’s top spot, the Quakes delivered three free-kick goals in their last MLS match, a 4-0 whitewash of Chivas USA on Sept. 2.
It was an unexpected explosion for San Jose, given they recorded just two free-kick goals in their previous three seasons — the most recent coming from since-departed Bobby Convey on May 21, 2011 against New England. It also opens another avenue of attack that opponents must watch when they face the league-leading Quakes.
“Hopefully, we can build off of that, because we have some talented guys,” San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski said. “If that can become a threat — free kicks, corner kicks, attacking set pieces — it makes things nice.”
Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the barrage is that Marvin Chávez, acknowledged by many on the team as the Quakes’ best free-kick taker, didn’t connect on any of the balls that beat Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Víctor Bernárdez powered home a long-distance strike in the 11th minute. Ramiro Corrales bent a dipping ball over the wall and into the lower right corner in the 71st, then followed up with a quickly struck kick in the 81st that caught Chivas in disarray.
“It just adds up to a team that’s quite confident,” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. “I think anybody who’s in front of goal or attempting to have a shot on goal is feeling good.”
Certainly Corrales enjoyed the moment, which he said was “my first time — ever” bagging a brace.
“We’re scoring all types of different goals,” Corrales explained to MLSsoccer.com. “It’s just the quality of the team. We just have a bunch of great players on this team and I think I said at the beginning of preseason, this is one of the best teams I’ve been a part of. Everything’s falling into place. It’s just working for us right now.”
So, does this mean there’ll be a race among teammates to see who can be the first to line up and fire off San Jose’s free kicks when the Quakes visit Chivas USA on Saturday? Will Wondolowski’s joking prediction of a “Wrestlemania” scene break out on the Home Depot Center pitch?
Corrales says no, pointing out that he deferred to Bernárdez two weeks ago, and Bernárdez returned the favor.
“My first one, he said, ‘You take it,’ because it was more for a left-footer on that side,” Corrales said. “There’s no competition here. We all like each other. We all want to play well.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.