Better finishing could put Quakes on track

[MLS] Surely the Quakes’ back line, in which part-time defender Ike Opara made his MLS debut against defending champion Real Salt Lake, didn't perform well in a 3-0 loss Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Opara is bouncing back and forth between learning the ropes as an MLS rookie and finishing up the semester at Wake Forest. The Quakes’ defense, which left large gaps when pressed by RSL’s attack, fell victim to a pair of stunning goals by Javier Morales and an opportunistic finish by Fabian Espindola.

Yet had San Jose not squandered chances before RSL scored a crushing third goal in the second half, it would have had a fighting chance.

Midway through the first half, when sent through one-v-one against keeper Nick Rimando, forward Ryan Johnson couldn’t cleanly trap the ball before stabbing at it, and Rimando got a piece of the shot to deflect it wide and preserve a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, forward partner Cornell Glen cut sharply past defender Nat Borchers to reach the goal line, then committed a cardinal sin among soccer players by stepping on the ball and stumbling as it rolled out for a goal kick.

After another minute, Glen broke past Borchers again up the middle and rather than play the ball to Johnson, sent a left-footed shot wide. RSL parlayed the ensuing goal kick into a second goal when Espindola charged down an attempted clearance, and as Quakes defenders appealed for offside, knocked a shot past Cannon.

Tossed into a two-goal hole, and down a third goal as well as a man when Chris Leitch went off and Morales rocketed the ensuing free kick into the top corner, the Quakes gained some traction in midfield through substitutes Brandon McDonald and Joey Gjertsen but still couldn’t score.

In the 60th minute, with Borchers on the sideline receiving medical attention for a cut eyebrow, Arturo Alvarez drilled a sharp-angle shot that Rimando deflected onto the goalpost, and midfielder Andre Luiz first-timed the rebound well over the bar. A Rimando save with 15 minutes closed out a frustrating night for the home team, at both ends of the field.

No doubt defensive glitches need correction. Yet the same is true for squandered opportunities, especially on a team well-stocked with veterans in midfield and up top.

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