Earthquakes

Earthquakes drop opener on Beckerman's goal

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Earthquakes drop opener on Beckerman's goal

March 19, 2011
EARTHQUAKES PAGE

SANTA CLARA, Calif. The final score may not be as convincing as it was when Real Salt Lake beat the San Jose Earthquakes in last year's season-opener, but the result remained the same on Saturday.Kyle Beckermans 63rd-minute goal, a ricochet off the left post, gave RSL a 1-0 victorymaking this the second consecutive year they've walked out of Buck Shaw Stadium with three road points to open the season.Unlike in last years 3-0 whipping, the Earthquakes could say this time that they had the run of play over the course of the 90 minutes. But RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimandoput under absolute siege in the final 20 minuteswouldn't break.In fact, in the face of a driving, wind-whipped rainstorm that grew worse by the minute,it was a night for the goalkeepers. Starting with a pair of 70th-minute saves on 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and Khari Stephenson, Rimando simply refused to concede the equalizer.He barely stopped Sam Cronins blast from distance in the 82nd minute, reaching behind him to scoop up the rebound.A minute later, Rimando couldnt cleanly grab Brandon McDonalds chipped pass, but yanked away the bounding ball just in time to prevent Wondolowski from scoring.San Jose 'keeper Jon Busch came up with the matchs first critical save in the 62nd minute, when former Quake midfielder Ned Grabavoy broke in alone behind Ramiro Corrales and latched onto a lead pass from Alvaro Saborio. Grabavoy stamped his shot from 12 yards, but the charging Busch got his left hand to it and turned it away. Busch could not do anything with Beckermans attempt a minute later, however. The RSL captain walked onto a pass from Javier Morales at the top of the box and launched a right-footed shot that took one skip, eluding a diving Busch and crashing off the post into the net. After working extensively on a 4-3-3 in preseason, the Quakes came out listed in a 4-4-2 formation, their classic bread-and-butter for the last three years, with Wondolowski slotted alongside Ryan Johnson up top. That being said, Wondolowski did dip back into midfield more often than last yearespecially when RSL had possession in the Quakes defensive thirdand San Jose did utilize more overlapping attacks from fullbacks Ramiro Corrales and Chris Leitch.Johnson almost had a golden chance to put the Quakes on the board in the 13th minute when he brought down a long cross in from Bobby Convey inside the penalty box and spun away from his marker, Nat Borchers. But Chris Schuler, starting at center back for RSL in place of injured 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave, slid back to get enough of a touch on the ball that Johnson whiffed on the shot, and goalkeeper Nick Rimando came off his line to clean up the mess.Wondolowski snuck into open space inside the 6-yard box in the 21st minute and was found by a beautiful cross from Leitch, but last seasons 18-goal scorer could only get a glancing head to the ball, which went wide of the far post. Real Salt Lake got their legs midway through the first half and nearly sprang Ned Grabavoy in the 30th minute when Cronin and McDonald had a communication breakdown in San Joses midfield. McDonald made a sliding stop to break up the play 30 yards from goal, but was whistled for a handball, setting up Morales, the man who torched the Quakes last year for two magnificent goals in a 3-0 season-opening victory at Buck Shaw. This time, however, Morales chipped free kick in search of RSL forwards Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio was easily corralled by Busch.
Courtesy San Jose Earthquakes media services

A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

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A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

This week, the San Jose Earthquakes announced they would not be bringing back Victor Bernardez next year. 

For most people, this news barely registered on their radar, if at all.  For me, it is the end of the line for one of my favorite players, on my favorite team.

Who was Victor Bernardez?  He was an attacking central defender for the Quakes.  When he played, he constantly made you wonder if he was being overly aggressive, or out of control.  My heart would skip a beat when he would dive in on a tackle, and more often than not, he would come away having made an amazing play.

The first thing that stands out physically about Victor is his strength.  He’s like a bull or an angry rhinoceros -- he played fearlessly and with passion.  I constantly underestimated his offensive abilities.  I can’t count how many times it would look like he was just kicking the ball wildly to clear it, and it was actually a long pass in a perfect place for a counter attack to start.  Through some of the lean years, Victor’s long balls started many of the team's best offensive chances.

He was a relentless player who provided me some of my happiest moments as a fan.  I can clearly remember how despondent I was and how happy I ended up being at the 2012 California Classico at Stanford Stadium.  I had organized a trip for my kid’s soccer club and had over 200 people in our group.  For many, it was their first time to an Earthquakes game.  I wanted them to love the Quakes as much as I did.  Steven Lenhart scored an early goal (and did some pull ups on the goal). Then David Beckham scored, Jason Hernandez scored an own goal, and Landon Donovan put Galaxy up 3-1 in the 41st minute after a misplay by the Quakes defense. 

We were sitting in the end zone, pretty close to the Galaxy supporters group, and I was dreading things would get worse for my boys in the black and blue.  Then, in the 44th minute, Big Vic scored his first MLS goal on a swinging redirect off a Marvin Chavez corner kick, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before or since.  It changed the whole outlook of the match.  Chris Wondolowski capped off the comeback with his unforgettable whirling, back-to-the-goal finish for the game winner.

I won’t forget the free-kick goal Victor scored that same year against Chivas where he took about 14 steps before he shot the ball around a 3-man wall and into the corner of the goal.  Nor will I forget the same approach he took when an opponent try to discourage him from a restart after a foul and stood about 3 yards from the ball.  Instead of asking the referee for 10 yards, he ran up and drilled the guy with the ball.  It deflected out of play for a throw-in and Victor had made his point. I don’t remember an opponent ever taking that same tact with him around.

Victor was listed as six-foot-two, but I was fortunate enough to share an elevator with him once.  I’m 5’10” and all I can think is that they measured him while wearing his longest studs on his cleats.  The truth is, while on the field, he played like he was six-foot-two -- and with the ferocity of lion. 

It was pretty clear this season that the club did not have plans for a 36-year-old center to come back in 2018.  In the middle portion of the season, other players found themselves where Victor had been a constant for years on the back line.  One of the things I am most grateful for is that Victor got a chance to be an impactful player on the run to the playoffs.  His passion for the club, and the game, shone bright.  His aggressive play in the September 30th must-win 2-1 victory over Portland showed the team how it needed to play if it was going to make the playoffs.  In spite of having trouble keeping up with speedster attackers, he was able to shore up a defense that ended the season -21 in goal differential, and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

There are other ways Victor has impacted my life.  He made me care about the country of Honduras, and how their national team is doing.  I openly cheered for a man nicknamed “Muma”.  I have no idea what it means, but it just sounds cool and makes me feel closer to him, even though our paths have rarely crossed.  He showed me how to be ready for when my number is called after feeling left out for a while.  He exemplified so many of the great things about the game and were a part of my growing love for the sport.  Most importantly, he showed me what can happen if a person puts their heart and soul into their craft, and complements it with humility, humor, and love.

Victor, I wish you well in whatever lies ahead.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories you provided me and my family as we got to watch you ply your trade.

Joe Washington is the senior coordinating producer for NBC Sports Bay Area/California  -- and a lifelong Quakes fan 

Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

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Michael Erichsen/Bildbyran

Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

When the San Jose Earthquakes named Chris Leitch their head coach around the halfway point of last season, the biggest question wasn’t why, it was why not — as in, why not assign him the interim tag most people hired during the middle of a year get?

At the time, general manager Jesse Fioranelli's sans-interim approach was the GM saying that not only was the label not necessary and that Leitch was the in-house solution the Quakes needed to end a playoff drought going on five seasons but also that he was the right person to guide the team into a brighter future. 

And so that vote of confidence, coupled with Leitch guiding the Earthquakes to their first playoff appearance since 2012, plus the lack of an official announcement by the team that a coaching search was underway makes Friday’s hiring of Mikael Stahre a bit eye-popping and provides no clear-cut answer to what happened behind closed doors when the Quakes came back from Vancouver following a brutal exit from the postseason. 

Rumors began swirling midway through the week that Fioranelli had Stahre, the front man over at Sweden’s BK Hacken, in his sights. And there are those people who would argue the writing was on the wall for Leitch given the team’s inconsistent play — especially on the road. But were it not for some ambiguous, less-than-reassuring endorsements of Leitch following the 5-0 playoff loss that left the door open for just about anything, there are others who would say that Friday’s hiring of Stahre was completely out of left field. 

If anything, it appears Fioranelli, who Quakes fans knew very little about when he was hired as the GM back in January, is continuing a precedent that he’ll pull any trigger at any time. 

Whether Fioranelli’s decision to hire the Swedish head coach is the right thing to do is yet to be seen, obviously. Stahre built his name in Sweden, rising from the junior ranks to the front of a first team that last year jumped six spots in the standings. It’s one of many coaching statistics San Jose lists to try and assure fans they’re getting a true soccer mind for the job in Stahre. 

Fioranelli and team President Tom Fox are saying all the right things to welcome Stahre into the fold, mentioning his ability to relate to players — who reportedly gave Stahre glowing endorsements — as a key reason why he was ultimately chosen to lead the Quakes (read between the lines what you will there given the rumored-sour and still-unofficial departures of former Quakes mainstays Simon Dawkins, Cordell Cato and David Bingham once Leitch took over). 

Moreover, Fioranelli reiterated some of the points in the team’s press release during a conference call Friday afternoon. He mentioned that Leitch would stay on as the team’s technical director — the role he had before becoming the head coach and that the club’s decision to relieve him of the head coaching job had nothing to do with where the club was coming from (read: playoffs) but more so where they wanted to go moving forward (read: as of right now, unclear). Fioranelli said the search was extensive and that Stahre was one of three finalists for the job — including one from South America. He again pointed out that Stahre’s values align with those of the club and he’s a man his former players vouch for.

So, at least at first glance, San Jose is doing its best to make pretty and tie a bow around what was at-a-minimum an awkward firing of Dominic Kinnear and hiring of a man in Leitch who did just enough to justify the change but not enough to warrant extending Fioranelli’s experiment any longer. 

Only time will tell exactly what Fioranelli is creating over at Avaya Stadium.