SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Any player will remember their debut with a new club. Kyle Bekker made sure plenty of disappointed folks at Avaya Stadium will recall his first game with the Montreal Impact.
Bekker, the 25-year-old Canadian international acquired from FC Dallas exactly three months earlier, recorded his first career MLS goal Wednesday night to provide 10-man Montreal their second-half equalizer in a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Bekker’s tally -- a 22-yard, left-footed strike from the right wing that caught Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham leaving too much daylight at the near post -- negated Chris Wondolowski’s 14th goal of 2015 and dealt a painful blow to the Quakes’ playoff hopes.
It was the first time this season that Montreal (9-11-6) - who sent five key players home after Saturday’s scoreless draw in Los Angeles -- managed to gain a point after trailing at the half, even after Ambroise Oyongo was sent off on 49 minutes for a reckless studs-up challenge.
San Jose (11-11-7), meanwhile, have picked up only two points out of their last three matches -- all at Avaya -- and remain stuck in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point behind Portland and Sporting Kansas City, both of whom have games in hand on the Quakes.
Without the likes of Marco Donadel, Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti and suspended Laurent Ciman, the Impact featured nine new starters. Only Wandrille Lefevre and Nigel Reo-Coker remained from the LA match, and the latter moved from defense to a holding midfield slot. Along with Bekker’s Impact debut, center back Hassoun Camara made his first appearance since April to complete his recovery from a knee injury.
San Jose were almost unchanged from the team that drew 1-1 against Seattle on the weekend save one big adjustment: Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia made his first start of the season at right wing, taking over for Cordell Cato.
The Quakes held the balance of possession in the first half with nearly 60 percent of the ball, but flubbed their lines for much of the first half-hour. Marc Pelosi squibbed a shot from 14 yards in the 22nd minute, and Quincy Amarikwa eschewed a one-touch attempt from even closer range the 30th, eventually losing possession.
Eventually, San Jose’s buzzing pressure paid off. Backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg tossed a pass into the middle of the field for midfielder Eric Alexander who was swiftly bracketed by Perez Garcia and Wondolowski, the latter of whom got a touch that went to Amarikwa. Camara swept the ball off Amarikwa’s feet, but that only served to tee up Wondolowski who slotted home with his right foot from 19 yards.
Wondolowski nearly doubled up two minutes later by running onto a square pass from Perez Garcia at 24 yards, but his left-footed try was well parried by a leaping Kronberg.
Montreal surged forward in the 38th minute with a 3-on-2 break, but it came to naught when Alexander pulled the trigger from 20 yards and shot right at Bingham.
San Jose seemed to be firmly in command when Oyongo crashed into Perez Garcia, landing his right foot high on the left thigh of the Quakes playmaker to earn his first ejection of the year.
The Quakes came close to an insurance tally in the 65th when Anibal Godoy’s header from a Perez Garcia free kick flashed wide, but Montreal landed their counterpunch seconds later. Johan Venegas escaped trouble on the right wing and fed Bekker, who cut inside and cut deep into the hearts of the 18,000-strong sellout crowd with his goal.
San Jose poured forward as the game wound on, but their best chances went begging. Wondolowski missed in the 69th after being freed by a Shea Salinas long ball. Two minutes later Salinas fired high from 19 yards, and four minutes after that Shaun Francis’ close-range attempt from an Amarikwa layoff was turned aside.
When substitute Adam Jahn sent his header wide of the far post in the 89th minute, the Quakes’ last-ditch hopes for victory were dashed.