VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps had a huge test before them as they battled the San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place Stadium Saturday afternoon. San Jose came into the game with a 7-1-1 record and an astonishing 15 goals scored in their last 5 games. MLS leading goal-scorer (10), and Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski found the net twice on April 7th in San Jose when the Earthquakes beat the Whitecaps 3-1. However on this occasion the Whitecaps out played San Jose for large stretches of the game and prevailed 2-1 thanks to a 94th minute stoppage time goal from substitute Eric Hassli.
Both teams played midweek games on Wednesday May 2nd and started the game tentatively for the first 10 minutes. The Whitecaps looked like they didn’t want to give away the ball and as a result they weren’t attacking on offense like they can. San Jose took advantage of the Whitecaps slow start by capitalizing on a cross to take an early 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. Marvin Chavez came down the wing and curled a lovely cross to the back post where MLS leading goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski rose to head the ball past the diving Whitecaps goalie Joe Cannon. Young-Pyo Lee seemed to give up on the play and didn’t make a strong effort to defend Wondolowski. Chris Wondolowski doesn’t need any help from opposing defenders. A brilliant player like Wondolowski will score every time if given a small opportunity, and that’s exactly what happened on his 11th goal of the season.
San Jose Earthquakes defender Justin Morrow was involved in a nasty collision with Camilo in the 24th minute. With the ball headed towards Camilo, Morrow sent the Brazilian forward flying and both players remained on the ground for a few minutes. The crowd was in a frenzy but that didn’t persuade referee Chris Penso to issue a yellow card.
In the 30th minute Vancouver took its 3rd corner of the first half and nearly tied the game. Defender Alain Rochat moved up inside the box and his header sent the ball just past the far right post. The Whitecaps pressured attack finally resulted in a goal in the 40th minute. Camilo’s free kick found midfielder Gershon Koffie in a crowd of players. Koffie somehow managed to head the ball into the net to the net to the delight of the home crowd. Even though the Earthquakes opened the scoring the Whitecaps carried the play and seemed to play with more confidence, and poise after Wondolowski’s goal. The Whitecaps went to the locker room with all the momentum.
San Jose started the second half by making a substitution and earning a string of yellow cards. Ike Opara came on for fellow defender Jason Hernandez. Referee Chris Penso was spewing out yellow cards like a water fountain. Sam Cronin was presented with a yellow card for a dirty arm tackle on Omar Salgado. Two minutes later Earthquakes midfielder Marvin Chavez and defender Steven Beitashour both received a yellow card. Chavez for dissent, and Beitashour for tripping Whitecaps winger Omar Salgado. Salgado, who was making his 3rd start of the season showed flashes of speed and terrific ball control throughout the game. Whitecaps fans have been waiting for the talented 18 year-old to earn a permanent spot in the Whitecaps starting lineup and Salgado might be on his way to doing just that.
The Whitecaps controlled the ball for 53% of the second half and put a blanket on the high-powered San Jose Earthquakes offense. The Whitecaps back line of Young-Pyo Lee, Martin Bonjour, Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat did a wonderful job of shutting down Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart. Other than Wondolowski’s goal he didn’t get any opportunities to strike again. Lenhart, who has scored 4 goals this season went into hibernation and was not a threat during the game.
With the score still deadlocked at one, Vancouver Whitecaps Coach Martin Rennie brought on talented but struggling forward Eric Hassli in the 73rd minute. Martin Rennie was hoping his team could find a late goal to take away all 3 points so he also brought on another struggling Whitecaps offensive threat in playmaker Davide Chiumiento. Chiumiento was subbed on for Omar Salgado in the 81st minute. Davide Chiumiento and Eric Hassli work well together and the duo and created a few fantastic scoring chances in the last few minutes of the game. At the death Chiumiento passed the ball up to Hassli, who at first glance appeared to be offside. Several Earthquakes defenders stopped playing and lifted up their arms thinking they were referees. The flag stayed down and Hassli hammered the ball towards the goal. Earthquakes goalie Jon Busch got his left hand on the ball but it wasn’t enough as the ball hit the post a rolled into the net. 19,271 Vancouver Whitecaps fans jumped out of their seats and cheered Hassli the hero. Hassli thanked Whitecaps fans after the game. “I would like to say thanks to all the Vancouver Whitecaps fans because I got a lot of messages via twitter and it was just amazing. They’ve got my back so I would like to dedicate this goal to everybody because they deserve it.”
Vancouver Whitecaps goalie Joe Cannon has played outstanding all season long and made 4 saves during the game. Cannon talked about how huge this win was for the team. “I think that’s probably the biggest win of the franchise since I’ve been here. I don’t think we’ve had a sendoff like that. It’s great to see Eric get it because everyone knows his trials and tribulations and you can’t write a better script.
Notes: The Vancouver Whitecaps play their next game on Wednesday, May 9th at home when they host FC Edmonton in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship. Vancouver defeated FC Edmonton 2-0 on May 2nd. The San Jose Earthquakes will host Chivas USA on Sunday May 13th.