SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes are not going away.
Wondolowski scored his 10th goal of the season to lead the San Jose Earthquakes to a 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium. It was a league-high seventh game-winning goal for Wondolowski, MLS’ reigning MVP, and it moved the sixth-place Quakes (13-11-8) within one point of the Rapids (13-10-9) and LA Galaxy (14-11-6), who hold the West’s last two playoff spots.
San Jose improved to 4-0-1 in their last five matches as the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners attempt to complete an improbable comeback to make postseason play. The Quakes extended their unbeaten streak at home to 15 straight matches.
Colorado kept Wondolowski off the scoreboard with multiple saves before the reigning league MVP broke through in the 69th minute, snapping a powerful header from a Shea Salinas corner kick that left Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin flat-footed.
Although he won’t win another Golden Boot, Wondolowski has now struck for double digits in league scoring for four straight years.
Wondo slipped deftly through a pair of Rapids defenders to walk in alone in the 51st minute, but Irwin quickly came off his line to smother the shot.
Colorado center back Drew Moor delivered a pair of goal-line saves in the same 64th-minute sequence – the first on Wondolowski with a slide, the second against Alan Gordon while prone – to keep the Quakes temporarily at bay.
Irwin had to make a diving deflection with his left hand to prevent Wondolowski from scoring off Salinas’ free kick in the 69th minute. But Irwin could do nothing with the ensuing corner kick, which was a fitting result from the Quakes’ perspective; San Jose took eight corners to Colorado’s two, keeping the Rapids defense under pressure for much of the evening.
Gordon almost scored on an early corner, crashing a ninth-minute header high off the post and away from Colorado’s goal.
Vicente Sánchez missed a golden opportunity to put the Rapids ahead in the 19th minute, but his 9-yard header off a dissecting cross from Edson Buddle skidded a foot wide of the open far post.
Colorado, who finish with a home-and-home series against hard-charging Vancouver, still hold their playoff hopes in their own hands. They next host the 'Caps on Oct. 19 before closing at Vancouver on Oct. 27.
San Jose, meanwhile, still need help even if they close the season with victories against the Galaxy (Oct. 16) and FC Dallas (Oct. 26).