By VINCE MADURI
For more than a year now, the San Jose Earthquakes have been finding dramatic and impressive ways to grab points late in matches. On Saturday, they found a new and rather embarrassing way to drop points.
In the 62nd minute, Earthquakes starters Victor Bernardez and Alan Gordon left the field at the same time to change their cleats. Those questionable decisions proved costly when neither was allowed to re-enter the playing field until a stoppage in play.
As they stood waiting for that stoppage, the Whitecaps pounced on the 11-on-9 advantage, with Corey Hertzog scoring his first career goal that eventually helped the Whitecaps earn a 1-1 draw vs. the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night.
Hertzog’s goal cancelled out an 18th-minute opener from Chris Wondolowski set up by a Whitecaps turnover near their own penalty area.
Referee Fotis Bazakos’ decision not to allow Bernardez and Gordon back on the field prompted angry protests from the Earthquakes, but after the match Bazakos addressed the controversial decision, citing Law 4 of FIFA Laws of the Game, which clearly includes a clause stating that players are not allowed to re-enter the field of play until the ball is out of play when they leave the field to tend to equipment.
The Whitecaps didn’t wait around for Bernardez and Gordon to return. They went after the Earthquakes and broke through when Hertzog pounced from close range.
The tying goal began a string of events that are best classified as a wild ending to the game.
Steven Lenhart and Cordell Cato entered the game in the 69th minute and the Earthquakes began playing with four forwards along with the starters Gordon and Chris Wondolowski, who had scored the opening goal in the first half. San Jose started pouring men forward, trying to find the winning goal all over again.
At some point following the Hertzog goal, the referee seemed to lose control over the game, issuing four yellow cards after the 65th minute, but missed several calls including one in which midfielder Sam Cronin was flipped and almost fell onto his head from a sliding tackle by Nigel Reo-Coker but play went on.
In the final minutes of stoppage time, San Jose looked as if they would equalize but Cronin hit the post off the break, then Joe Cannon made a diving save off the rebound volley from Wondolowski.
Cannon’s saved his best for last though. Dan Gargan tried a header off a corner kick but the Vancouver goalkeeper made a tremendous save off the line to keep the score level.
The Whitecaps had to neutralize four corners in the last minute and a half of stoppage time to hold onto the draw.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie will be very happy to salvage a point at Buck Shaw Stadium against the defending Supporters’ Shield winners, while the Earthquakes will feel like they missed opportunities where they should have picked up all three points.
Here are the match highlights: