SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes aren’t done with their CONCACAF Champions League ride just yet.
Wondolowski’s 62nd-minute goal proved the difference as the Quakes delivered a 1-0 victory against Guatemalan side CD Heredia on Wednesday to claim first place in Group 5.
The outcome left all three teams in the group -- San Jose, Heredia and the MLS’ Montreal Impact -- tied on six points. The Quakes, making their CCL debut, will move on to the tournament’s quarterfinals next year by virtue of having the group’s best goal differential.
Wondolowski finally ended more than an hour of frustration for San Jose, who spent that time fruitlessly trying to break through Heredia’s opening 5-4-1 formation.
The sequence began with Steven Beitashour’s right-wing cross hopping through the penalty box on one bounce. Shea Salinas collected the ball on the other side and found Wondolowski, who had plenty of space to line up his composed, right-footed volley.
Drawn out of its shell, Heredia appeared to tie the match in the 86th minute when Charles Cordova slid to touch home Anderson Andrade’s dangerous ball across the face of goal. But Cordova was ruled offside by referee Roberto Garcia, and the visitors didn’t trouble Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch after that.
San Jose ended the night with only 10 men. Defender Clarence Goodson was sent off in the 94th minute, just before the final whistle, after picking up a second yellow card due to time-wasting.
Needing only a tie to advance, Heredia made no secret of their hopes, parking the bus from the outset with Cordova often the only man on San Jose’s side of midfield. Significant work was obviously going to be necessary to draw out the visitors.
Wondolowski almost turned the trick in the ninth minute when Heredia goalkeeper Jose Calderon blocked a Steven Lenhart shot from 15 yards but spilled the rebound. Wondolowski tried to lift the ball over a prone Calderon but pushed it over the crossbar as well.
San Jose dominated the ball from there, holding 77 percent of possession in the first half, but their closest chances were near-misses, not shots that forced Calderon to make stupendous stops. Sam Cronin zinged a shot just high from 40 yards. Wondolowski fired wide from inside Heredia’s box as the defense collapsed. A couple of crosses from the left wing scooted across the face of goal, begging for a back-post touch that never arrived.
After Wondolowski’s strike, Heredia tried to about-face, inserting forward Enrique Miranda in place of right back Rodolfo Gonzalez and moving to a 4-4-2.
Miranda redirected a 71st-minute corner kick off the near post from a very acute angle, but outside of Cordova’s offside goal, that represented Heredia’s best chance.
Champions League play will resume in late February or early March.