Chris Wondolowski certainly hadn’t forgotten about getting knocked out of the MLS Cup playoffs by the eventual champion last year.
And San Luis Obispo spectators got to see the release of some pent up frustration Friday as the San Jose Earthquakes star got a minor level of revenge against the Colorado Rapids.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t,” Wondolowski said about the leftover sentiment following last year’s 1-0 loss to Colorado in the conference semifinals.
Wondolowski, last season’s MLS goals leader, extended his preseason scoring streak to four games with a penalty kick in the 29th minute to help San Jose improve to 4-1-0 in exhibition showdowns at Cal Poly’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
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Including a pocket of chanting rooters from San Jose, an announced crowd of 2,689 was the third-largest since the series began in 2008 and allowed Mustangs head men’s soccer coach Paul Holocher to apply a much more rosy hue than he did in the previous showcase, when stormy weather hampered the event in 2009.
“It was really cool that the Earthquakes fans came down to support their team,” said Holocher, who played for the original San Jose franchise during the league’s inaugural season. “That added some flavor to it. They were standing and cheering the whole time.
“It was perfect. We filled that whole west side, so it was a real positive for us.”
Colorado, which started the same lineup Friday that it used to win the MLS Cup, had four shots, one on goal, in the opening 30 minutes while also denying San Jose any chances.
The Earthquakes hadn’t recorded a single shot before Rapids defender Marvell Wynne committed a foul on the inside fringe of the penalty area. Wondolowski beat Rapids keeper Matt Pickens for the game’s only score.
With two weeks before opening day in the MLS, it’s just the first preseason loss for Colorado, which is looking to defend the franchise’s first championship — won after tying San Jose in the standings for the final two playoff spots.
“It’s our first loss, so it’s disappointing,” said Rapids forward Conor Casey, the defending MLS Cup MVP, “but I feel good about where we’re at. We’ve got everybody healthy, everyone’s playing well. Tonight wasn’t our best performance, but we’re in very good shape.
“We’re not going to sneak up on teams this year like we did last year. Really the biggest challenge for us is to motivate ourselves and to keep improving.”
Colorado nearly tied the score in extra time, but Rapids defender Drew Moor’s header in front of the goal dribbled just wide left of the post to end the match.
Colorado outshot San Jose 5-2 in shots on goal. Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch was on to make all five saves.
“No matter what happens in the game, we want to play well,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said, “but it’s about winning, too. Early in the preseason, you play and you’re giving people minutes. We usually play 45 minutes and guys are off the field. We took a few guys off tonight, but all in all, I thought the team battled well and got a good result against a good team.”
It was also a familiar result for the Earthquakes in their five exhibition matches at Spanos Stadium.
“We do seem to play quite well and get results here,” said Yallop, who has coached the franchise since its resurrection in 2008. “We like coming down, so hopefully, that’s what we’ll do every year.”
Spectators saw players like Wondolowski, who scored 18 goals in 26 matches last season, Casey, who’s spent time with the U.S. national team, and Rapids forward Omar Cummings, who had a game-high four shots after leading Colorado with 14 goals last season.
Former U.S. national team member and English Premier League veteran Bobby Convey made his first preseason appearance for San Jose this year, coming off the bench in the second half.
Minus all the fans, the teams will each face Cal Poly in closed-door scrimmages today.
“It was a good crowd, a nice little stadium,” Casey said. “It was the first stadium crowd we’ve played in front of so far this preseason. It was nice to have little chants going on. It was a nice little atmosphere.”