SANTA CLARA, Calif. – This time, Chris Wondolowski’s only shouting was celebratory.
With World Cup-bound forward on hand watching his team from the stands at Buck Shaw Stadium, the San Jose Earthquakes put together their biggest offensive outburst since their season opener, beating the Houston Dynamo 3-0 on Sunday.
It was a performance in stark contrast to San Jose’s first match without Wondolowski, a 1-0 loss at Seattle that left the club’s captain and leading scorer screaming at his television set in frustration. On Sunday, Wondolowski – holding infant daughter Emersyn – beamed from the stands as Khari Stephenson bagged a brace and Atiba Harris added a third against a shorthanded Dynamo side.
Stephenson broke a scoring drought of nearly a year, rocketing a shot home from an indirect free kick from deep inside Houston’s penalty area in the first half and following up with a spot kick in the second. Harris finished off a tough night for Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall by beating him to a long pass from Jordan Stewart and knocking in his own rebound off the post.
San Jose (3-4-4) won for the second time in three matches, enjoying the returns from injury of Steven Lenhart, Yannick Djalo and, in a reserve role, Alan Gordon. With Shea Salinas also coming back off a one-game suspension, the Quakes’ attack – which came in ranked 18th out of 19 clubs with a one-goal per match average – looked far livelier than it has in weeks, even without Wondolowski, who leads San Jose with five goals.
Houston (5-7-2) dropped their second straight game, both on the road, and for the fourth consecutive match couldn’t field the full complement of 18 players.
Nevertheless, the Dynamo looked the stronger side during a solid 15-minute stretch in the first half’s middle stanza. The run ended with San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch parrying away open headers from Warren Creavalle in the 29th minute and Will Bruin in the 33rd.
San Jose, who saw many of their long diagonal runs go unfulfilled early as they tried to gel in the attack, were rewarded in the 36th minute when Stephenson played a through ball for Lenhart. Houston defender David Horst cut off the pass, but played the ball back to Hall, who inexplicably picked the ball up just outside his own six-yard box, giving the Quakes an indirect free kick.
Salinas nudged the ball into the path of Stephenson, who hammered a shot to the back post in the 38th minute for his first goal since returning to the Quakes.
Another through ball set up Stephenson on the spot in the 58th. Djalo played Lenhart in and the forward – making his first appearance since March 29 due to a sprained knee ligament – did well to slide and gain control of the ball before going down in a collision with Corey Ashe.
Stephenson, taking the penalty in Wondolowski’s stead, coolly put his shot home.
Harris also broke his season duck with a show of hustle in the 70th minute. Chasing Stewart’s blast from the back, Harris caught Hall outside of his box and in no-man’s land. Harris’ header went off the right post but he won the footrace and touched home the rebound.
Busch finished with six saves, including an 84th-minute try by Bruin that had some venom behind it, for his fourth shutout of the season.
San Jose next face a road game Saturday against FC Dallas, while Houston play at the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.