SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Chris Wondolowski's goal definitely kept the Vancouver Whitecaps out of first place in the Western Conference. Whether the San Jose Earthquakes’ captain also saved his own club's hopes of making the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs remains to be seen.
With a loss almost certainly knocking the Quakes out of contention in the crowded West, Wondolowski scored his 16th goal of the season to equalize what would finish as a 1-1 tie for San Jose against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
Cristian Techera’s first-half tally had put Vancouver in position to leapfrog the LA Galaxy atop the Western Conference standings, but the Whitecaps (15-12-4) had to settle with moving within one point of the leaders; with FC Dallas lurking in third with two games in hand on both clubs.
San Jose (12-12-8) moved into a tie for sixth place with Portland thanks to Sporting Kansas City’s win at Providence Park on Saturday, but the Timbers have three matches left to the Quakes’ two.
The Quakes make do without midfielders Fatai Alashe and Marc Pelosi, both on Olympic qualifying duty with the U.S. Under-23 team, and playmaker Matias Perez Garcia who was serving a one-game suspension. With those absences, San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear gave JJ Koval his first start since May 30, pairing the second-year man with Panamanian veteran Anibal Godoy as the double pivot in the Quakes’ 4-4-2.
Vancouver coach Carl Robinson brought right back Steven Beitashour and forward Octavio Rivero back into his starting lineup as the Whitecaps tried to break a trend; in 13 previous MLS meetings between these two clubs, the road team had never won.
The clubs opened in end-to-end fashion with much on the line, but the Whitecaps began to ratchet up pressure after the first 10 minutes. Vancouver held the majority of possession and generated seven corner kicks before Techera found the breakthrough with a dollop of good fortune.
San Jose had cleared corners in the 37th and 38th minutes, but the Whitecaps kept forcing the action. Vancouver dispossessed Quincy Amarikwa inside the Quakes’ defensive half to spark the goal-scoring sequence. Kekuta Manneh fed a ball in the center channel to Mauro Rosales, whose back heel looked like it would roll harmlessly past his teammates. The ball bounced off Marvell Wynne and Clarence Goodson and landed at the feet of Techera. The Uruguayan cut back with his left foot to eliminate Wynne and Goodson from the play. Even though Francis reached the ball a fraction of second before Techera, the result turned disastrous for the hosts when the ball looped off Techera’s shin and over leaping Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham.
San Jose didn’t force Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted to make a save until the 62nd minute, but Wondolowski took advantage of a rare mistake on that shot. Wynne’s long ball set Cordell Cato free down the right wing, and he got past Jordan Harvey to hammer a tightly angled shot on goal. Ousted parried the ball down, but couldn’t grab the rebound on the bounce which allowed Wondolowski to swoop in and knock it high into the open net.
Kinnear went to three at the back in the 74th minute with the insertion of Tommy Thompson for Wynne, and the Quakes’ 20-year-old had a good look blocked by Vancouver center back Tim Parker in the 78th minute.
When Godoy slipped on a 94th-minute free kick, it set up a two-man free breakaway for the Whitecaps. Manneh’s heavy touch afforded Bingham the opportunity to make a sliding save near the edge of his area, preserving a point for the Quakes.
The Whitecaps have a short turnaround hosting FC Dallas in an important conference battle on Wednesday, while the Earthquakes are off for thirteen days as they wait to host Sporting Kansas City.