Earthquakes

Real Salt Lake vs. Earthquakes: What to watch for

817108.jpg

Real Salt Lake vs. Earthquakes: What to watch for

Programming note: The Earthquakes kick off against Real Salt Lake Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

The last two times these clubs met, the San Jose Earthquakes moved ahead of Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference lead.RSL will try to return the favor this time.San Jose goes for the season sweep of Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.After Simon Dawkins and Chris Wondolowski scored in second-half injury time to lift San Jose to a 3-1 home win over RSL on April 21 - moving the club atop the West for the first time since returning to MLS in 2008 - the Earthquakes (11-4-4) posted a 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 23 to move a point ahead of Real Salt Lake.Now with that same edge over second-place RSL (11-6-3), San Jose will try to avoid a season high-tying three-match winless stretch following last Saturday's scoreless draw at conference-worst FC Dallas.Down a man in the 80th minute when captain Ramiro Corrales was sent off for picking up his second yellow card, the Earthquakes still had a number of opportunities to find the back of the net."Whether you're down a man or up a man, when you're one-on-one with the goalkeeper, you still need to finish it and we didn't do that," said Wondolowski, the league leader with 14 goals.The suspended Corrales now has to hope his team can finish the sweep of RSL without him."(It would be) a big, big confidence boost," he told the league's official website. "Obviously, they're one of the better teams in the league, that's why they're one point behind us. ... I'm very disappointed I won't be a part of that, but I think the guys can do the job."Wondolowski has one goal in each of the two matches with RSL in 2012 after going scoreless in his first five games against Real Salt Lake.RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is scoreless versus San Jose this season, but he's coming off the second hat trick in club history in last Saturday's 3-0 win over Portland. Saborio, third in MLS with 10 goals, snapped the club's 249-minute scoreless stretch in the 60th minute."The goal - it opens everything," he said. "We finally scored first and got a win."Forward Justin Braun could make his Real Salt Lake debut Saturday when the club goes for its first back-to-back victories since a 3-0 run May 12-June 16.Braun, a Salt Lake City native, was acquired from Montreal on Wednesday for a 2014 conditional draft pick."Really excited to add Justin," general manager Garth Lagerwey told RSL's official website. "Big, athletic player that I think can play either one of the forward spots for us."In six games against San Jose while with Chivas USA, Braun had four goals and an assist.The Earthquakes should have forward Steven Lenhart back after coach Frank Yallop gave him last Saturday off to rest.Alan Gordon, who replaced Lenhart in that match for his third start of 2012, scored and set up Wondolowski's goal last month in Sandy, Utah.San Jose has never won three in a row against Real Salt Lake.

Earthquakes secure spot in playoffs with clutch goal in stoppage time

Earthquakes secure spot in playoffs with clutch goal in stoppage time

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Marco Urena scored in the third minute of stoppage time and the San Jose Earthquakes secured a playoff spot with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on Sunday in their regular-season finale.

San Jose (13-14-7) needed a win for the final spot in the Western Conference after FC Dallas' 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. It's an unexpected run for the Earthquakes, who fired coach Dominic Kinnear midway through the season.

In the build-up to the winner, San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell sent a long ball that was chested by Victor Bernardez and headed to Quincy Amarikwa inside the 18-yard box. Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth pushed Amarikwa's shot wide but San Jose star Chris Wondolowski chased it down for a feed to an open Urena in front of goal.

The Earthquakes have won seven of their last nine home games — with every win coming by one goal.

Wondolowski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in the 55th with an easy redirection of Danny Hoesen cross at the back post.

Minnesota (10-18-6), which has lost nine of its last 12 road games, tied it at 2 in the 81st on Francisco Calvo's header off the crossbar.

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

usmnt-trinadad-01-ap.jpg

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.

After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.

Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.

One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.

The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.

Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.

All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.

Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.

Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.