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Drilling down on: San Jose 2, at Philadelphia 1

Chris Wondolowski;  Marvin Chavez;  Steven Lenhart; Victor Bernardez

San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski, second from right celebrates with teamamtes Marvin Chavez, left,, Steven Lenhart, second from left, and Victor Bernardez after scoring against Toronto FC during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, March 24, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)


Man of the Match: San Jose’s first set of substitutions made the difference, and either of the men that came on after 60 minutes could have been given this honor. Although I wouldn’t fault anybody for picking Martin Chavez as the day’s best (the winger did an amazing job to make his two assists), we see a lot of forwards fail to convert the chances Steven Lenhart put home. We’ve seen Steven Lenhart fail to convert the chances Steven Lenhart put home! Tonight he came up big, and his effort to stay ball-side of Carlos Valdes on the opener shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • That key substitution saw Tressor Moreno and Sam Cronin come off. Cronin did well, but Frank Yallop probably wanted to keep Khari Stephenson’s right boot in the game (moving him to a holding role). Bringing on Lenhart allowed Chris Wondolowski to drop to a slightly more withdrawn position, from which he was able to thread the ball that led to Chavez’s first assist.
  • Chavez made goats of a number of Philadelphia players. On the first goal, Raymon Gaddis was turned around in the moments before Chavez chipped for Lenhart. On the second, neither Sheanon Williams nor Freddy Adu could keep up with him on the right before the decisive assist was floated toward the far post. (I’m also talking myself into Chavez as Man of the Match.)
  • If I had to cast a league rankings ballot right now, I’d have a hard time keeping San Jose out of the top spot.
  • One of the reasons is depth. Even without Ramiro Corrales, Shea Salinas and Victor Bernardez, the Earthquakes have the ability to bring the likes of Lenhart and Chavez off the bench. What’s more, each player seems to have a defined role (Yallop’s not just throwing them on because they’re talented). When Lenhart comes on, he’s allowing Wondolowski to drop back from the line. When Chavez comes on, he’s exploiting wide spaces going untested by San Jose’s starting XI.
  • Philadelphia didn’t get a shot on goal until the 72nd minute and only generates on serious chance - Gabriel Gómez’s 84th minute goal. It’s always dangerous to say a result is just, unjust, lucky, or random, but Philadelphia didn’t do much to get points from this one.
  • One place that was evident was in their formation. The team played 4-5-1 (Amobi Okugo deep) even though they were at home. Freddy Adu was both wide left and not in a particularly advanced position. On the other flank, the home side gave a debut to Kai Herdling. He put in an acceptable shift, but it wasn’t the type of role that suggested Philadelphia’s first priority was three points.
  • As a result, the first hour of this match was a little disappointing. After a strong start from San Jose was rendered mute by two nice Zac MacMath saves, Philly’s lack of drive defined the match. Only after the subs came on did the match actually entertain, but against an opponent that was coming cross-country, Philadelphia may have opted for a bit more ambition.
  • Final kick to his dead horse: Late in the match (after they equalized), the Union could be seen with five across the back, three deep in midfield as they protected their point.
  • With the win, San Jose has six wins from eight games, their 19 points two bring Sporting KC for the league’s high mark. For Philly, it’s trip sevens: Seven games; seven points; seventh place in the East.