San Jose Earthquakes frustrated by lack of offense in 1-0 loss to New York Red Bulls in first game of MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal playoff series

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, October 31, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Earthquakes New York Red Bulls MLS Eastern Confernce Playoff Semifinals soccer football

New York Red Bulls Mexico captain Rafael Marquez MLS Eastern Confernce Playoff Semifinals argue with referee

San Jose Earthquakes New York Red Bulls MLS Eastern Confernce Playoff Semifinals soccer football

A sellout crowd of 10,525 soccer coaches tried to direct the Earthquakes from the stands in the opening leg of the home-at-home Eastern Conference MLS Semifinals on Saturday, but for the 13th time this season (0-7-6) a struggling San Jose offense was held off the scoresheet against the New York Red Bulls. In the last two months of play the Earthquakes have been held to one goal or less in 7 of 11 matches. MLS regular season scoring leader and Golden Boot winner Chris “Wondo” Wondolowski was held scoreless on only 2 shots, and midfielder Joel Lindpere scored off his left foot in the 55th minute to give the New York Red Bulls a 1-0 win.

San Jose goaltender Jon Busch came up with a pair of game altering saves within the first 10+ minutes. On a set play originating from the corner, former Gunn High School and Santa Clara College alumni Mehdi Ballouchy took a long feed and drilled a header straight into the body for the Red Bulls. As the Quakes defense pushed up to try to force the offsides, Mehdi got around Jason Hernandez to get a foot on the ball for a followup shot that bounced wide.

Mehdi Ballouchy initiated a second scoring chance minutes later after corralling a deflected centering attempt. Mehdi feathered a short pass in traffic to Estonian Joel Lindpere. Lindpere launched a heavy shot that was punched wide by Jon Busch. Busch also got help from his defense at the end of the first half. A high header was challenged on a 50/50 play in front of the Earthquakes net. As Busch moved to control the ball, defenseman Roy Miller ran into him and both fell down. Lindpere, alone with the ball 10 feet out, tried to sneak a quick shot in on the right side. A sprawled Jason Hernandez deflected the ball off the goal line for a desperation save. Hernandez failed to box out Miller on the initial play.

Jon Busch, a former MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2008, settled down the attack of the regular season Eastern Conference champs in the first half, a Red Bulls side that was minus French national Thierry Henry, rookie midfielder Tony Tchani, and Ghanaian forward Salou Ibrahim. New York still had a potent attack with the services of former Aston Villa regular Juan Pablo Ángel, midfielders Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards, and Mexican/Barcelona standout Rafael Marquez.

On the flip side of the Earthquakes offensive struggles has been a sparkling defense. San Jose has held opponents scoreless a record 13 times this season, The return of captain Ramiro Corrales on the left side made for a solid defensive quartet of Corrales, Jason Hernandez, Brandon McDonald and Tim Ward. Early saves by Busch and strong play by the defense allowed the midfield to create opportunities in the first half with speed down the wings. Midfielder Bobby Convey pressed hard on the left side, and put 1 of 2 shots on goal when he cut inside. San Jose’s Brazilian striker Geovanni struggled to put his attempts on goal. After New York’s Roy Miller misplayed the ball in his own end, Geovanni had time and space yet he drilled a shot several feet wide of the post. He finished the first half putting 3 of 4 shots wide.

Busch and the Quakes defense could not hold the Red Bulls off the scoresheet for the first 10 minutes of the second half, and it would decide the game. Brandon McDonald tried to clear a New York entry into the box, but he put the ball right on the feet of a dangerous Joel Lindpere. Lindpere hammered several quality shots on goal in the first, and he put the Red Bulls up 1-0 with a hard strike off his left foot early in the second half.

From that point on the Earthquakes had to ramp up the intensity and the offensive pressure, but it never quite clicked on all cylinders. Brazilian Eduardo was subbed in for Scott Sealy in the 62nd minute, and creative midfielder Arturo Alvarez was subbed in for Sam Cronin in the 69th minute, but it was not enough. Geovanni bent a shot on goal from long distance that could not be controlled by Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul, but Bouna got his arms in the legs of Chris Wondolowski as he went for the loose ball. Wondolowski was called for Unsporting Behavior and given a yellow card after he went down on the play. The former Chico State alumni put his arms wide and looked like a plane coming in for a landing, which may have drawn the call for embellishment. A more natural collapse could have earned a penalty shot.

On a set play with less than 10 minutes left in the match, Wondolowski lined up a big left foot for a homerun strike on goal. 12 feet out, he topped the ball to his right and late sub Eduardo tried a bicycle kick that deflected off the post. Wondolowski lunged in with his left foot poking at the rebound, but he toed the ball 10-15 feet over the top of the goal. Eduardo showed brilliant body and foot coordination to hurtle to his left and get a foot on the ball, but he was walking away from the net in frustration before Wondolowski took his second shot on net. Earlier in the match, Eduardo was caught offsides on a rush upfield. Overall, he was not active enough getting to open areas.

“The result was not eeery, but I have to say I thought it was our worst performance all season even including Salt Lake,” San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop told reporters after the game. “From the opening whistle we didn’t really seem to have any idea, and any sense of scrap in us. It was really disappointing” Yallop said. “It was a massive game for us, and we just laid down and died to be honest.”

If the Earthquakes are going to head into Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Thursday and advance past the second leg of the ECSF, they are going to need more urgency and more diversity in their offensive attack from the start of the match. Head coach Frank Yallop can not lean soley on Chris Wondolowski or they are going to be dispatched from their first playoff appearance since returning to the MLS after only 1 round.

“It is a 2-game series. Obviously we would love to be up a goal or two goals headed back to New York, but you don’t want to take yourself out of the game. You go to New York down a couple and you are really against the wall,” Earthquakes goal keeper Jon Busch told after the game. “Now we are down a goal, and we know what we have to do in New York.”

Video highlights from the game with Spanish commentary are available via Several post-game interviews are available via on their youtube channel here.

Game Notes:

On Saturday night at Buckshaw Stadium in Santa Clara, NY outshot San Jose 13-12, with a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal. Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch stopped 6 of 7 shots on goal, Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul stopped all 3 shots he faced. A physical game down low, New York took 21 fouls to San Jose’s 12, with several borderline plays not called. Mehdi Ballouchy (47, dissent), Roy Miller (71, reckless tackle) and Bouna Coundoul (83, delay of restart) earned yellow cards for New York. Chris Wondolowski earned a yellow card for the Earthquakes (65, unsporting behavior). The second leg of the 2-game ECSF series will return to the 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Thursday (5PM, ESPN).

Thierry Henry has not been ruled out for a return from a knee injury for the second NY-SJ match. The Red Bulls head into game 2 with a 5-game win streak at home, having won 7 of their last 8 overall. MLS regular season scoring leader Chris Wondolowski has scored the last 10 Earthquakes goals. Ryan Johnson, Geovanni, and Eduardo among others need to start finding the back of the net. Midfielder Bobby Convey was effective on the left side, Wondolowski was double teamed at times on the right. Adjustments may be the key to the series. Freeing up Wondo on the right side may be an all or nothing affair in game 2. In their third year since returning to the MLS in 2008, the Earthquakes are still playing at a 10,5000-capacity temporary facility on the campus of Santa Clara University. While the field and the bleachers have been upgraded, and the Quakes have a new 2.5-acre training facilty next to land it hopes to build a new stadium on, vocal fans in San Jose deserve credit for their strong support of the team in the interim.

The MLS Conference Semifinal is a home-at-home, aggregate goal format series. The team with the most total goals scored after 2 games will advance to the single-game Eastern Conference Finals. If teams are tied, there will be two 15-minute overtime periods followed by a kicks from the penalty mark. All four of the teams that qualified for the MLS wildcard were from the Western Conference (5th FC Dallas, 6th Seattle, 7th Colorado, 8th San Jose). The lower seeds San Jose and Colorado were matched up against the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, New York and Columbus.

[Update] San Jose drops playoff opener 1-0 to New York –

[Update2] MLS PLAYOFFS: Seeing red in Frisco – Scott French for

BEST PLAYER: Lindpere might not get the press that DPs Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Juan Pablo Angel attract, but the Estonian midfielder clearly is the Red Bulls’ MVP this year — and he tormented the Earthquakes in New York’s win. He had the lone goal, a superbly placed shot from a tight angle past a diving Jon Busch and inside the right post from a poorly headed clearance, and would’ve had another had Jason Hernandez not been stationed on the goal line.

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