The San Jose Earthquakes may be 1-1 in the MLS Western Conference standings, but they’re 2-for-2 in one unusual defensive category: matches with defenders making saves off the goal line.
Ramiro Corrales did it late in San Jose’s season-opening loss to Real Salt Lake, but that hardly mattered since the defending champions were already up 3-0.
Jason Hernandez’s kick save [VIDEO] Saturday against the Fire was significantly more meaningful. It turned back a 73rd-minute blast by Chicago forward Collins John, who was bidding to give the Fire their first lead of the night.
But instead of John hammering home a pass from Patrick Nyarko -- whose run had forced San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon to come off his line -- Hernandez turned it into a rallying point for the Earthquakes.
“That,” said Ike Opara, Hernandez’s center back partner, “was a game-changing save.”
Less than 10 minutes later, Opara headed a gorgeous pass from Bobby Convey for the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
“We were in a little bit of trouble, and you just do what you can to prevent a goal,” Hernandez said of his stop. “I saw Joe come out, and usually if I see that, I’m in position to help him out. In training, we’ve done it a few times, and it turns out it was the right decision. [John] thought he had a goal, but I was able to make a play on it.”
It’s just part of the personality Hernandez is hoping to instill in this year’s Earthquakes, after the team allowed 50 goals in 2009, the most in MLS.
“We’re trying to do our best to establish a mentality for a clean sheet,” Hernandez said. “We’ll put our bodies in the way or whatever we need to do to protect our goal.”
Cannon facing tough shots
A goalkeeper’s life is never easy, but Cannon has had it particularly rough in his first two games. After Javier Morales potted a pair of perfectly placed shots for RSL, Marco Pappa got into the act on Saturday.
The Guatemalan’s blast from 25 yards out was still rising as it reached the goal, burying itself just inside the far post and just about tickling the upper netting, leaving Cannon very little in the way of countermeasures.
“I think that we’re giving up goal-of-the-week goals,” Bobby Convey marveled. “And that doesn’t happen every week.”