It was a bittersweet moment watching Eddie Gavin of the Columbus Crew score the first goal in the 6th minute of their away game against the San Jose Earthquakes. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and my family were season ticket holders from the inaugural MLS season in 1996 to last year when they moved to Phoenix, AZ. When the Earthquakes franchise restarted, I was living in San Francisco and found myself with a new team to support. The Earthquakes remind me of the Crew I grew up watching: a hustling, scrappy team that works hard, but often struggles to find that tiny bit of quality that would catapult them to the top of the MLS.
The Crew, however, showed a side of the game that I usually associate with the New England or DC United teams of ten years ago – constant complaining, diving and hacking. Robbie Rogers was especially frustrating to watch, as he was quick to fall and even quicker to get up and complain to the referee when no call was given. To top it off, Crew defender Jed Zayner was awarded a yellow card for dissent in the 55th minute for petulantly spiking the ball when a throw-in call didn’t go his way.
The Quakes showed their fighting spirit after going one down in the 5th minute, hitting back immediately with a fantastic strike from Arturo Alvarez. A mistake by Chad Marshall sent the ball into the path of Andre Luiz who neatly flicked the ball over to Alvarez right outside the 18-yard box. Alvarez struck the ball perfectly and it flew past a diving William Hesper to bring the Quakes level at 1-1 in the 6th minute. The rest of the half was a tight contest, with both teams having opportunities to score.
The second half opened in a similar fashion, with both teams playing attractive, attacking soccer. San Jose fell victim to a dubious off-side call, having a Ryan Johnson goal called back. The Crew’s second half subs, Emmanual Ekpo and Steven Lenhart, provided an attacking spark for the Crew that led to the Crew’s second goal. An unmarked far post allowed Chad Marshall to head in a nicely taken corner from Guillermo Schelotto and the Quakes were down 2-1 with twenty minutes left.
San Jose showed a resilience that they lacked last season. They battled back and created several chances before Bobby Convey, whose pace had caused problems for Columbus defenders all night, was fouled near the corner flag. He swung a cross in that found sub Scott Sealy. A quick header by Sealy across the goal mouth found Chris Wondolowski and the striker scored his sixth goal of the season with an easy header in the 79th minute.
Both Convey and Ramiro Corrales were the stand out players for the Quakes. Convey played excellent defense and provided much of the Quakes’ movement from defense to offense, bringing countless balls out of the back and up the field. His crossing was excellent and he ran at defenders again and again, creating difficulty for the Crew defense. Corrales was very solid defensively, playing Rogers out of the game and limiting Schelotto when he drifted wide.
Having been ranked by most commentators, including ones on this site, as one of the worst two teams in the league preseason, a remarkable start with 5 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws has the Quakes sitting 3rd in the West and 4th overall. Wondolowski, considered by many to be a back-up, is now the 3rd leading scorer in the MLS. While no one expects the Quakes to win the Cup or the Shield this season, they’ve had a fantastic start to their 3rd season back.