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Winning with attitude
by Ridge Mahoney, May 23rd, 2008 7AM



The Quakes are still last in the Western Conference, but after upending defending champion Houston, 2-1, at Buck Shaw Stadium Thursday night on national television they are no longer winless at home, and more importantly, they are generating some real, genuine attitude.

After a goalless first half in which the Quakes outshot Houston, 9-4, Kei Kamara and Ivan Guerrero scored for a 2-0 San Jose lead, and they limited the Dynamo to just a clinical near-post finish by Brian Ching for their first victory at Buck Shaw, the home of the Santa Clara University soccer upgraded at a cost of $3 million.

San Jose coach Frank Yallop gave forward Ryan Johnson his first start, and his high, curling shot forced a spectacular save by Houston keeper Pat Onstad in the first half. That chance came after defender Bobby Boswell stumbled on the ball, one of several very un-Dynamo-like defensive errors committed by a back line that lost rugged linchpin Eddie Robinson to an abdominal injury in the 62nd minute.

The Quakes matched Houston's pressuring, swarming effort for much of the game. They threw themselves into blocks and tackles, they fought for every ball in the air, and despite more than an hour of frustration finally got the goals they deserved. Play in the midfield, which had ranged from competent to pathetic in the first seven games, seldom dropped in intensity and workrate. Houston's efforts to launch Dwayne De Rosario into the attack were blunted by Ramiro Corrales and Ned Grabavoy.

Right mid Ronnie O'Brien didn't always supply the best final pass, but he constantly dug out balls, won tackles, kept possession under pressure, and found teammates with quick, accurate passes. A deflected O'Brien cross produced the first goal.

The battling and running of Johnson and Kamara kept the Dynamo off-balance for much of the game, and the crisp midfield play forced Ricardo Clark to tackle and chase rather than link up with De Rosario and Brian Mullan. After testing Onstad, Johnson chipped a ball that Kamara flicked on and Guerrero clanked off the post from point-blank range. Guerrero clanked the post, too, and needed a few seconds to recover, but recover he did to score the winner and finish out the match.

Players on both teams took knocks and twice scuffles broke out. Houston midfielder Stuart Holden accidentally conked Quakes keeper Joe Cannon on the head; San Jose central defenders Ryan Cochrane and Nick Garcia came up grimacing after heavy collisions, and both also were cautioned after duels with Clark; and Onstad hit the ground hard after a stiff aerial challenge from Johnson.

Five minutes after Pat Ianni replaced Robinson, Kamara escaped both Ianni and Richard Mulrooney to collect a flick-on from Grabavoy and, on the turn with his second touch, smash it low past Onstad. A near-sellout crowd of 10,046, sensing an historic win, celebrated boisterously.

Kyle Brown nearly tied it up a few minutes later but the Houston sub overplayed a ball running into the Quakes penalty area and Ryan Cochrane got enough on his shot so Cannon covered it easily.

In the 81st minute, with Houston playing three in the back and sending men forward, the midfielders were caught upfield and Johnson and Guerrero broke away when an aimless ball drifted free. Guerrero played the ball to Johnson barreling in on the right, Onstad repelled his hard, low shot, but Guerrero pounced to sting the net with a fierce finish.

Substitute Brad Davis chipped to the near post for Brian Ching to volley home in the 88th minute but San Jose held out. Another fracas broke out in the final minutes and teammates had to separate Cochrane and Ching, former teammates in San Jose and Houston before the new Quakes picked Cochrane in the expansion draft.

The Quakes won't be back at Buck Shaw, their temporary home for three seasons as a stadium project moves forward, for quite a while. Six of their next seven league matches are on the road, and their only home date during that span will be played June 14 at the Oakland Coliseum, since it involves the Los Angeles Galaxy, their main rival prior to the move, and a 2-0 winner when the teams met at Home Depot Center April 3.

Yet on Thursday night what had been billed as a reunion -- a meeting of old and new -- transformed into a rivalry.

May 22 in Santa Clara, Calif.
San Jose 2 Houston 1. Goals: Kamara (Grabavoy) 67, Guerrero 81; Ching (Davis) 88.
Houston -- Onstad, Mulrooney, Boswell, Robinson (Ianni, 64), Barrett, Mullan, Clark, De Rosario, Holden (Davis 75), Caraccio (Brown 55), Ching.
San Jose -- Cannon, Hernandez, Cochrane, Garcia, Denton, O'Brien (Salinas 78), Corrales, Grabavoy, Guerrero, Johnson, Kamara (Kirovski 80),
Yellow Cards: San Jose -- Garcia 35, Cochrane 40.
Referee: Jair Marrufo.
Att.: 10,046.



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