On a night when the San Jose Earthquakes had no choice but to win, the franchises’ all-time leading scorer came through in the clutch.
San Jose pulled out a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids thanks to a 69th minute strike from Chris Wondolowski.
“They’re huge,” Head coach Mark Watson said of the three points his team collected. “That was probably a must-win game for us. I don’t think you go in with that as your main thought, but you know that needs to be the result you come out with.”
It was exactly the result the Earthquakes got, and now the squad’s record stands at 13-11-8. With two games left in the MLS regular season, the Earthquakes are just one point off the fifth and final playoff spot
As noted by Watson, the team had a number of opportunities early on to open up an advantage:
I thought we had four or five really good chances to score. So, all credit to our guys for their perseverance to keep plugging away, and keep going at them and keep getting opportunities. Because sometimes when you get opportunity after opportunity that doesn’t go in guys tend to drop their heads. Our guys didn’t do that.
In the 51st minute, a great opportunity fell to Wondolowski. The striker beat the Colorado defender as he raced into the box, but then side-footed a tame effort that the goalie easily handled.
The breakthrough nearly came just over ten minutes later.
In the 64th minute, San Jose had two golden opportunities to jump out to a 1-0 lead. First, Wondolowski received the ball in the box, but the 30-year-old seemed to have trouble controlling the ball. His shot was cleared off the line by a Rapids’ defender. Then just moments later, an effort from Alan Gordon was also cleared off the line.
In the 69th minute, however, the Earthquakes finally found the back of the net. Shea Salinas whipped in perfect corner kick, which Wondolowski latched onto the end of. The striker rose into the air and sent a powerful header into the back of the net. As the MLS Twitter Feed noted:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 10, 2013
The goal was strike No. 10 for Wondolowski on the year. Remarkably, as noted by Robert Jonas of CSN Bay Area, the attacker has now provided the Earthquakes with seven game-winning goals on the season.
For Salinas, 2013 has also been a huge year. The assist was No. 8 on the season for Salinas. As pointed out by the Earthquakes’ Twitter account:
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) October 10, 2013
The strong play has not gone unnoticed by Watson.
“His service has been excellent.”
Watson then added that the team spends a lot of time practicing set pieces before noting:
“The whole thing is predicated on good service. A good whipped-in ball in those dangerous areas.”
Which is exactly where Salinas comes in.
“…And then sharp runs.”
Which is Wondolowski’s job.
“Wondo has scored some big goals for us, and tonight was no different,” Watson said. “I thought he had a great game. Wondo just has that knack of being in the right place at the right time, and he’s a fantastic finisher.
The coach then added: “We needed him again tonight.”
San Jose will also need Wondolowski again on Saturday October 20 when the squad travels to StubHub Center to take on the LA Galaxy. Just like the Rapids, the Galaxy sit just one point ahead of the Earthquakes.