What was supposed to be a Western Conference showdown turned into a beatdown Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium when San Jose routed Real Salt Lake, 5-0.
The result pushed leader San Jose (12-4-4) four points ahead of runner-up RSL (11-7-3) in a matchup of the league’s top two teams. There were mitigating circumstances that empowered the Quakes to dish out such a thumping, courtesy of a Chris Wondolowski hat trick and goals by Alan Gordon and Simon Dawkins, yet RSL coach Jason Kreis didn’t cut his players much slack.
Captain Kyle Beckerman’s ejection in the 58th minute opened the floodgates through which San Jose poured four of its five goals. In the aftermath of the RSL’s worst league defeat since a 6-0 loss to the Red Bulls six years ago in which the team went down to 10 men in the eighth minute, Kreis expressed displeasure with both Beckerman’s dismissal and how RSL reacted to it.
Beckerman charged into Quakes’ midfielder Sam Cronin as RSL playmaker Javier Morales lay on the ground in the aftermath of a crunching tackle, and much pushing and shoving and barking ensued as players swirled around for a couple of minutes. Referee Allen Chapman first pulled out the red card for Beckerman, to which he reacted incredulously, and after some discussion with his fellow officials cautions were issued to Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez of San Jose.
“I thought Javier got fouled,” said Kreis. “He’s down on the ground, Cronin’s trying to play the ball, and I think Kyle took offense to the fact that Cronin decided not to kick the ball out. He went in on him, I think late, and was trying to make a statement, but I didn’t think it was an overly dangerous tackle.
“It was certainly one that didn’t seem to me to be ejection-able, but maybe the referee sees it different or maybe the referee saw something in the fray that warranted Kyle’s ejection, I’m not sure.”
The ejection was Beckerman’s third in 288 league matches and he didn’t think his actions justified the punishment. “[Chapman] can do whatever he wants, but it’s just a hard tackle,” said Beckerman. “The way they reacted and the way the fans got swallowed up, the referee really got into it. He made a game-changing call that ruined the game, really.
“We weren’t playing our best but we were still 1-0 down, so it’s doable. Once we went down a man it just unraveled.”
Kreis had other words to describe what occurred with RSL playing 10 against 11. Gordon scored in the 63th minute on the rebound of a Bernardez header off the post, Wondolowski tallied his second goal 10 minutes later with a classic near-post redirection of a low Shea Salinas’ cross, and then Wondolowski and Dawkins traded goals and assists a minute apart.
“We need to be more disciplined and when I say more disciplined I’m not just talking about how we’re reacting to referee’s decisions, I’m talking about the way we played the game tonight,” said Kreis, who expected his team to come out sharper for the second half when it trailed just 1-0 to a Wondolowski goal in the 18th minute.
“It wasn’t an overly disciplined performance after we got the player ejected. That wasn’t handled very disciplined, because even a man down, we shouldn’t be allowing four more goals.”
Aside from Fabian Espindola, the attackers didn’t display much guile or fight, and of the defenders, Jamison Olave struggled in his return to action after a three-game injury layoff. Early in the match he gave away a corner kick with a careless drag-back near the bline, and a few minutes later he scuffed an easy clearance.
After a few harsh tangles with Gordon and a couple of discussions with Chapman regarding shirt-tugging and other nuances of their personal bout, Olave flew into a fierce tackle that gave away a corner in the 18th minute. Marvin Chavez’s high, curling ball reached Gordon, whose header triggered a bang-bang sequence Wondolowski capped off with a calm tap-in.
Olave and centerback partner Kwame Watson Siriboe were seldom in sync and both were cautioned before Watson-Siriboe was substituted in the 74th minute. Teenager Luis Gil contributed virtually nothing in the attack, yet even mainstays such as Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio seemed off the pace.
“I think that there were a few guys that for whatever reason slept-walked into that game,” said Kreis. “[Olave] was one of them.”
When the teams played at Buck Shaw on April 21, RSL went down to nine men yet reached stoppage time tied, 1-1. Two late goals provided San Jose a 3-1 victory. Last month, San Jose beat RSL, 2-1, at Rio Tinto, in a match played without ejections, so with the teams at full strength, it leads, 3-2. To borrow a hockey term, on the power play the Quakes have outscored RSL, 6-0.
Those defeats account for a big chunk of RSL’s seven losses so far this season and Kreis was blunt in terming setback number three as a true team effort. What he reiterated to his players last month during a league schedule lightened by the FIFA international dates apparently didn’t sink in, and he didn’t give much weight to the absences of defender Nat Borchers, midfielder Ned Grabavoy, and defender Tony Beltran as contributing factors.
“Yeah, we continue to stress the same things with our players, that they have to be accountable for performances,” he said. “So I certainly hope there’s nobody in the locker room that’s pointing fingers at anybody else because each person out there to a man wasn’t good enough tonight.”