The San Jose Earthquakes took a well-deserved road point Saturday by virtue of their 2-2 tie against the New York Red Bulls, but it might have come at far too high a cost.
Shortly before the first half ended, the Quakes saw midfielder Shea Salinas and defender Victor Bernardez go down in New York’s penalty box, barely 10 seconds apart, with potentially serious injuries.
“We’ll take it any way we can,” Quakes star Chris Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com via phone. “But those are two big guys to lose.”
While San Jose’s bench was remade this offseason with just such an occasion in mind -- and Simon Dawkins and Jason Hernandez performed capably in place of Salinas and Bernardez, respectively -- it still was a painful way for the Quakes to run their record to 4-1-1. San Jose was already missing the services of target men Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, both out with strained hamstrings.
Highlights: NY 2, SJ 2
“It’s never good, losing two players on one play right before halftime, but I’ve got to commend the guys for their second-half performance,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com via phone. “I thought we bossed the game, to be honest, and were a little bit unlucky not to score the winning goal.”
The initial report on Salinas was a broken left collarbone, an injury that usually takes months to heal. He suffered the injury when he was ridden to the ground and then kicked by New York midfielder Rafael Marquez on a 42nd-minute Quakes corner kick.
Bernardez was diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee after challenging Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara for a high cross a mere 12 seconds after the sequence began.
Both men started every game coming into Saturday, with Bernardez playing all 450 minutes as a powerful centerpiece of the Quakes’ reinvigorated back line and Salinas earning 445 with his slashing play at left wing.
Before the injury, Salinas delivered a delicious left-footed touch in the 35th minute to set up Wondolowski’s game-tying goal, which would mark San Jose’s second clawback of the match. Salinas broke hard on Steven Beitashour’s overcooked right-wing cross and scooped the ball up perfectly for Wondolowski to hammer into the net via a diving header.
Bernardez’s fingerprints have been all over San Jose’s defense, which already has three shutouts after recording only seven all of last year -- although he appeared to be responsible for New York’s first score, when the Quakes were caught napping on a fifth-minute Red Bulls throw-in. Kenny Cooper, played on by Thierry Henry, broke free for his seventh goal of the season, which left he and Henry tied with Wondolowski atop the league scoring charts.
For those Quakes looking at the half-full portion of the glass, the positive takeaway from Saturday was that San Jose didn’t crumble without Bernardez and Salinas. Dawkins’ through ball nearly lead a potential game-winner in the 55th minute, but it ran just a foot too long for Wondolowski to touch it past a charging Meara.
“The good thing is that we have an extremely deep team, and as you saw, when you can bring Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara and Simon Dawkins off the bench, you’re not missing much,” Wondolowski said. “Sometimes that can be a little worrisome, when you see [teammates hurt], and you see someone coming in and you don’t necessarily have 100 percent faith in them. I know with our team, we can go all the way down to the 28th guy and we still have 100 percent faith in them.”
It’s not clear how much faith the Quakes will need when they host Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake next weekend, but Yallop has no doubts.
“We’ll see the extent of both injuries, but I don’t expect the team to suffer from the two guys getting injured, and that’s by design,” Yallop said. “We’re covered in all spots and not lacking in the quality that comes off the bench.”