SAN JOSE, Calif. – Matias Perez Garcia’s last act on the pitch Sunday kept the San Jose Earthquakes from having last rites read over their 2015 playoff hopes.
Perez Garcia scored with a deflected shot from 25 yards in the 87th minute to give the Quakes a 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake. The Argentinean, who hadn’t scored since June 20, gave San Jose three critical points on an afternoon where they simply couldn’t come away with less if they were going to have any hope of getting above the red line in the crowded Western Conference.
Perez Garcia, who was sitting on a yellow card, was shown a second caution for stripping off his shirt as part of his post-goal celebration and was ejected, but the Quakes – who outshot RSL 20-6 on the day – held on a man down for their first win in five matches.
San Jose (12-12-7) moved into seventh place on 43 points, one back of Portland (who have a game in hand on the Quakes), two behind Sporting Kansas City (who have also played one fewer game) and three behind Seattle.
RSL (10-12-8, 38 points) lost for only the second time in five league matches and saw their postseason dreams essentially end against a team that hadn’t beaten them in their last five head-to-head matchups.
RSL, who won their first trip to Avaya Stadium in May behind a Javier Morales rebound wonder strike, had to make do this time without their Argentinean maestro. Morales came into the match leading RSL in goals (eight), assists (11), shots (44), shots on goal (18) and fouls suffered (53) on the season, but was knocked out due to a hip flexor injury sustained on Thursday in sparking a 2-1 comeback victory in CONCACAF Champions League play against Santa Tecla FC of El Salvador.
San Jose dominated play in the first half, outshooting RSL 10-1, but found no joy in front of a noticeably sparse Avaya Stadium crowd.
Rimando had to leap at his near post to defend Perez Garcia’s cheeky Olimpico try in the 25th minute, and Devon Sandoval did well to clear Chris Wondolowski’s left-footed attempt from nine yards on the rebound. Anibal Godoy’s 13-yard slash at the ensuing loose ball strayed wide.
Salinas caused trouble for RSL right back Jordan Allen all day, including a 35th minute incident in which the winger took Marc Pelosi’s pass in stride and used two dribbles to leave the young defender behind. That set up a left-footed shot which beat Rimando – but bounced off the near post and out.
Salinas also generated a 41st minute corner kick with another one-on-one attack against Allen. Perez Garcia’s dangerous out-swinger found Amarikwa's head at five yards, but the shot was pushed just wide.
The Quakes kept the pressure on after intermission. Salinas once again barreled clear in the 51st minute and delivered a rolling cross to an unmarked Wondolowski, but his finessed attempt was parried remarkably at the last moment by a diving Rimando. Amarikwa’s spinning attempt off the recycled clearance was headed to safety by Aaron Maund.
San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham sprang into action in the 77th minute when Joao Plata and Sandoval crafted a give-and-go to put Plata behind the Quakes’ back line. Plata’s shot from seven yards was smothered by the onrushing Bingham for his first save of the afternoon.
Salinas set up Wondolowski again in the 82nd minute, but Rimando cut down the angle enough to knock it clear with an agile right-handed save. Perez Garcia put the rebound just over the crossbar.
RSL concocted a counterattack in the following minute, but Plata – unmarked at 6 yards – couldn’t get his feet set to make decent contact with Olmes Garcia’s cross and let a pinned Bingham off the hook.
Soon after, Perez Garcia cashed in the only opportunity that ultimately mattered to the Quakes. And like that, he was gone.