The San Jose Earthquakes will always hold a special place in the heart of every Vancouverite. They were the Whitecaps very first opponent, way back in 1974. It was a one all win… but before this article gets bogged down in the nuances of the original North American Soccer League, suffice it to say we have a history with the boys from the Bay Area. The less said about regulation stoppage time penalty shootouts and tie-wins, the better.
Tonight was the last chance for both sides to get a win in July. Los Angeles (twice), Portland, Houston, Club America, and Manchester United have already defeated San Jose this month in a mixture of league, cup, and friendly encounters. Meanwhile, Vancouver has dropped a pair of results to Colorado and Kansas City, before their ten-men were able to nick a point in the Rose City.
With Jordan Harvey unavailable through suspension, Christian Dean bravely stepped into the breach. For some time now, we've extolled the virtues of the young Californian, and he did not disappoint. He was a force to be reckoned with, winning headers, and imposing himself on the match.
While he won't get an assist, one of those headers played a part in the game's opening goal. After Dean easily leapt over San Jose's Quincy Amerikwa, Kekuta Manneh passed the ball back to Matías Laba, who tried to play it forward. Marvell Wynne prevented the through ball, but in so doing he lost his footing.
Manneh scooped it up and ran at goal, dragging defenders out of position, and sent a perfectly weighted ball to the oncoming Mauro Rosales, who finished it off with a flourish. San Jose's goalkeeper David Bingham might have gotten something on it, but Rosales' shot was too quick. It slid right under him.
Already trailing by one, the Earthquakes had to make a defensive substitution in the 13th minute when centre back Clarence Goodson suffered a knock. We're still not sure on the severity of that injury, but he was out of the game. San Jose manager Dominic Kinnear chose to replace him with Paulo Renato.
Last year, Kendall Waston scored his first goal as a Whitecap against San Jose, and tonight, he decided to make it a tradition. The Whitecaps will be hoping that next year San Jose shows up early in the schedule. Starting from a deeper position than is typical of the Costa Rican, Waston attacked the ball, beating out both Jordan Stewart and Quincy Amerikwa to head Mauro Rosales' corner into the back of the net. It was textbook, plain and simple.
As the second half ebbed away, Marvell Wynne found himself in a one v one with Octavio Rivero. Fortunately for the defender, Rivero was offside. Otherwise, referee Edvin Jurisevic would surely have pointed to the penalty spot as Wynne executed an ice hockey-style body check upon Rivero. He made absolutely no attempt to play the ball, and on another night, another referee might have reached into his pocket despite the play already having been whistled dead.
But there was still more excitement to be had. Quincy Amerikwa earned himself a yellow card at the other end after he collided with Pa Modou Kah. The ball had already left, but there was nothing Amerikwa could do to stop himself in time. He would be right to feel aggrieved.
Octavio Rivero had a wonderful chance to extend the home side's lead in the 51st minute, but instead of going to ground when Fatai Alashe clipped him, he stayed on his feet and took his shot. A lesser player would have tried to coax the referee into pointing to the spot, but Rivero has too much class for that.
These things have a funny way of balancing themselves out. Less than four minutes later, the referee did point to the spot. Renato got caught on the wrong side of Rivero, which gave the Earthquake only two options. He could allow Vancouver's young Uruguayan striker to have a one v one with San Jose's keeper, or he could send Rivero to the ground and hope for the best.
With the Whitecaps designated penalty taker and Capitán, Pedro Morales, still on the bench, Rivero took his own penalty and side-footed Vancouver to the three-goal lead.
The Whitecaps led from the fifth minute, and they never looked back. And why should they? The last time San Jose won in Vancouver, Pa Modou Kah, Mauro Rosales, and Robert Earnshaw were in diapers. The rest of the squad weren't even born yet. Even when the Earthquakes won the Supporters' Shield back in 2012, they lost both of their games in Vancouver.
And though Quincy Amerikwa's 90th minute goal softened the score line a bit, it's not lost on us that it was Shea Salinas, a Vancouver castoff, who set it up.
In fact, we'd argue that Salinas was San Jose's man of the match. He assisted on the Earthquakes only goal, would have had a goal of his own if not for the woodwork, and was by far San Jose's most creative player.
With the victory, Vancouver trail Dallas and DC by two points each. They have a game in hand on United, while the Hoops have a game in hand of their own.
Next up for the Caps are a pair of games against the Sounders. They head to Seattle for a Major League clash on Saturday, and return home for a Champions League encounter on the Wednesday.