TORONTO – San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski scored a late equalizer with three minutes remaining to cancel out a first-half strike from Toronto FC’s Eric Avila in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night that did little for either team’s playoff hopes.
The 23-year-old Avila netted his first goal in a Toronto FC uniform on an opportunistic maneuver in the 32nd minute, firing home a precise shot after picking up a loose ball outside the box. But just when it looked like TFC would hold on for an important win, San Jose equalized in the 87th minute off a long throw-in, with Bobby Burling flicking on to Wondolowski, who put in a right-footed shot from close range to the right corner.
With just six matches remaining in the season for Toronto (4-12-12), the draw lifted TFC out of the basement of the Eastern Conference and with 24 points but they stand eight points out of the final wild card spot occupied by the New York Red Bulls. San Jose (5-10-11), meanwhile, extend their club-record winless streak to 13 matches and remain stuck on 26 points, good for 8th place in the West and just six from a postseason berth.
San Jose enjoyed the better of the possession in the early going but failed to capitalize on two half-chances. Wondolowski could not put a Joey Gjertsen shot on frame after five minutes and seven minutes later Simon Dawkins’ shot from the top of the box was deflected over the bar by a last-minute lunge from TFC left back Ashtone Morgan.
Despite failing to connect passes in the midfield, Toronto FC used a stroke of genius from Avila to take the lead in the 32nd minute. He was the first to pounce on a loose ball following a sliding tackle by San Jose captain Ramiro Corrales on Peri Marosevic. Avila penetrated the right side of the area and tucked a right-footed shot inside the far left post for a 1-0 advantage.
Toronto nearly doubled their lead on a Morgan diagonal shot before halftime and then on two Torsten Frings left-footed shots in the opening minutes of the second half which were stopped by goalkeeper Jon Busch.
While TFC played for the counterattack in the second half, San Jose controlled the play but continued to miss the target. Midfielder Bobby Convey missed the target on two long distance shots, Bobby Burling’s header off a corner kick finished high and a left-footed Wondolowski blast was saved by goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
Toronto FC thought they had put the game away on a breakout with 15 minutes remaining. Ex-Quake Ryan Johnson sent a through pass into João Plata, who replays showed beating the Earthquakes offside trap. But the referee called back the goal scored by the Ecuadorean, ruling that Plata had started in an offside position before rounding Busch and slotting the ball into the back of the net.
But the Earthquakes still had life left with Wondolowski delivering a left-footed drive in the 85th minute which was stopped by Kocic in a play which proved to be a prelude to the tying goal two minutes later.
A throw-in from the left side by second half substitute Jacob Peterson was flicked on by Burling to the far post, where Wondolowski was wide open to bundle it home for his team-leading ninth goal of the campaign.
San Jose manager fielded a lineup with just two changes from last week’s 2-0 loss in LA. Chris Leitch came in at right back for the suspended Steven Beitashour while Dawkins started in place of Khari Stephenson at withdrawn forward. New forward signing, Ecuadorean Edmundo Zura, did not travel.
Despite the fact that regular starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei was available after sitting out with a knee bruise since August 6, TFC manager Aron Winter stuck with Kocic in goal against San Jose. The 4-3-3 lineup featured a few changes from last week’s 2-0 loss in Chicago. Morgan made his third start at left back and Avila came into midfield after sitting out last week with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile TFC designated player Danny Koevermans missed his second straight league match with a tight left hamstring.
Both teams off next Labor Day weekend and return to league action on Saturday, September 10. The Earthquakes host the Chicago Fire (10:30 p.m. ET) and Toronto travel to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. ET).
TOR -- Eric Avila 2 (unassisted) 33
SJ -- Chris Wondolowski 9 (Bobby Burling 1) 87
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Bobby Burling, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Joey Gjertsen (Jacob Peterson 66), Rafael Baca (Matt Luzunaris 83), Ramiro Corrales, Bobby Convey, Simon Dawkins (Khari Stephenson 66), Chris Wondolowski.
Substitutes Not Used: Nana Attakora, Sam Cronin, Ellis McLoughlin, David Bingham.
Toronto FC -- Milos Kocic, Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden, Andy Iro, Ashtone Morgan, Julian de Guzman, Torsten Frings, Eric Avila (Eddy Viator 84), Peri Marosevic (Matt Stinson 58), Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata (Danleigh Borman 88).
Substitutes Not Used: Terry Dunfield, Leandre Griffit, Demitrius Omphroy, Stefan Frei.
SJ -- Bobby Burling (caution; Reckless Tackle) 31
SJ -- Bobby Convey (caution; Reckless Foul) 37
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner, Eric Boria
4th Official: Geoff Gamble
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Clear and 77 degrees