SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In a game that both teams desperately needed to win, neither could manage even a goal as the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps played to a 0-0 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night.
The outcome did no favors to either team’s playoff hopes, leaving them still tied for seventh in the Western Conference on 38 points, five points outside of the top five and postseason safety.
Although San Jose remain unbeaten in their last 14 home matches, the tie broke a string of six straight home wins for the Quakes (10-11-8).
Vancouver (10-10-8) continued their recent slide, moving to 1-5-3 in their last nine matches despite the return of captain Jay DeMerit. DeMerit, who blew out his left Achilles tendon eight minutes into Vancouver’s season opener, capped a 6 1/2-month recovery from the injury by replacing injured center back Brad Rusin in the 31st minute.
Both sides had chances in the final minutes. San Jose nearly tallied through an own goal when DeMerit’s redirection of a Marvin Chavez free kick caromed off the back post in the 87th minute.
Chris Wondolowski, who came in with seven goals in seven games against the Whitecaps, had a 91st-minute shot from inside the penalty box snuffed out by Vancouver defenders.
Alan Gordon also had a look, but couldn’t uncork a left-footed volley on Wondolowski’s headed pass just seconds before the final whistle.
For Vancouver, substitute Darren Mattocks almost stole the game in the 91st when he snatched up a missed clearance in San Jose’s third and shot from the top of the penalty area. The right-footed drive went just wide to Mattocks’ left.
The Quakes easily could have broken on top in the 19th minute, off their first corner of the evening. Shea Salinas’ delivery was headed down with menace by Gordon, forcing a two-handed parry by Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. San Jose center back Clarence Goodson found himself alone with the ricochet, but skied his chance from 4 yards.
The hopes of a sellout Buck Shaw crowd rose in the 24th minute when Ramiro Corrales, making his first league start since May 11, went down in the Whitecaps’ box. It appeared that Carlyle Mitchell caught Corrales with the follow-through of a failed clearance, but Corrales’ last touch was heavy enough that Ousted likely would have beaten him to the ball in any case.
Kenny Miller generated Vancouver’s best chance of the first half, skinning Quakes center back Victor Bernardez at the end line in the 45th minute. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch turned aside the first shot, and Miller couldn’t put the rebound on frame.
Earthquakes midfielder Cordell Cato made a sprinting, 55th-minute run down the right wing and delivered a cross to Wondolowski in the box, but the reigning MVP’s header was well smothered by Mitchell.
Wondolowski had another chance in the 61st minute. However, his reaching toe-poke redirection of Sam Cronin’s long free kick went straight to Ousted, just another of the many chances the Quakes spurned on a frustrating evening.
San Jose will return to action in midweek when they host the Montreal Impact on Sept. 17 before they travel to Salt Lake for their next league game on Sept. 21. Vancouver are also in action on the 21st when they travel to Montreal.