SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski’s mini-slump is maxi-finished.
With his first hat trick of the season – league-leading goals No. 15, 16 and 17 – Wondolowski finished off San Jose’s 5-0 victory against short-handed Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
Wondolowski, who had been held to a more pedestrian three goals in his previous seven appearances after starting the season on an 11-goals-in-10-games tear, delivered goals in the 18th, 72nd and 80th minutes to quicken his chase of Roy Lassiter’s MLS single-season scoring record and extend the Quakes’ (12-4-4) lead in the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference standings.
Alan Gordon added a tap-in from Victor Bernardez’s post-rattling header in the 63rd minute and Simon Dawkins cashed in from short range off a 79th-minute corner kick to complete San Jose’s sweep of the teams’ three-match season series.
The five-goal difference tied the Quakes’ largest-ever margin of victory, matching a 5-0 win against the Dallas Burn on April 22, 2000.
Real Salt Lake (11-7-3) found a comeback impossible after watching captain Kyle Beckerman see straight red in the 57th minute. His departure opened the floodgates for San Jose’s league-leading attack, which was already facing an RSL defense missing usual starters Tony Beltran and Nat Borchers because of injury.
Wondolowski created close chances in the fourth minute and in the ninth, so his initial strike did not come as a shock.
Marvin Chavez played a corner high up in the box, which was nodded down by Gordon and skipped across the face of goal. Wondolowski snuck inside right back Chris Wingert and to polish off Justin Morrow’s back-post pass with a diving header.
Wondolowski tallied again by converting with a near-post touch after Shea Salinas broke in down the right wing and blew by newcomer Kenny Mansally, one of Jason Kreis’ emergency changes on his restructured back line.
The hat trick came eight minutes later after Khari Stephenson unlocked RSL’s defense with a simple through pass, leaving Rimando defenseless against the predatory Wondolowski.
As with RSL’s 3-1 loss in Buck Shaw on April 21, the Utah side’s chances were demolished by an ejection. Beckerman was shown a straight red by referee Allen Chapman after the RSL captain delivered a retaliation foul on Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin. Moments earlier, Cronin had swept through his trailing leg for a takedown of Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales.
After a lengthy shoving match between both teams and a chewing out of Chapman by several of Beckerman’s teammates, yellow cards were handed out to Morrow, Bernardez and RSL’s Fabian Espindola.
With usual captain Ramiro Corrales suspended due to his red card in the previous match against FC Dallas, the Quakes brought Shea Salinas in on the left wing. As expected, late-game hero Gordon started for a third straight match as Steven Lenhart sat out due to concussion symptoms.
For RSL, in addition to the insertion of Mansally and Kwame Watson-Siriboe on the back line, Luis Gil replaced a hurt Ned Grabavoy in the midfield, and Espindola returned from a one-game suspension to spearhead the attack.
San Jose turns around quickly to host FC Dallas on Wednesday. Real Salt Lake will prepare for a Rocky Mountain Cup matchup against visiting Colorado on Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Wondolowski||A superlative performance from the runaway Golden Boot leader. Three goals and an assist in his best perofrmance of the year.|
|2||Alan Gordon||Big forward proved a perfect replacement for the absent Steven Lenhart with a goal and an assist, not to mention his occupation of the RSL defense with his physical play.|
|3||Jason Hernandez||A quiet and steady performance from the center back is a big reason why Jon Busch didn't have to make a single save.|