Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chivas USA 2 at San Jose Earthquakes 1 - April 23, 2011

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the 5th biggest league in North America and continues to grow in popularity. Expansion in Vancouver and Portland has brought the circuit to 18 teams in its 16th season, with the majority of the clubs (11) located west of the Mississippi, unlike other pro leagues. Just like football though, it's not roadtrip friendly with teams playing just once a week. I've been in most MLS cities before but never had the chance to see a match until today, when the San Jose Earthquakes hosted Chivas USA in a battle of bottom-feeders.

Buck Shaw Stadium

Located on the campus of Santa Clara University, Buck Shaw Stadium is named for Lawrence T. "Buck" Shaw, coach of the Santa Clara football team 1936-42. There are parking lots nearby that charge between $10 and $20 but there is street parking just off campus that is free, although it fills up early.

Tickets range from $20 for benches facing the goals to $50 for box seats. No reason to splurge here, but be aware that the Earthquakes do draw well and you can't just sit anywhere. Sections 108 and 109 are for the San Jose fans who stand and sing, while the visitor supporters sit in section A. Be aware of that if you are getting tickets on the street.

I tried to enter by the George Best Gate (the famous Manchester United player also spent a couple of seasons as a member of the NASL's San Jose Earthquakes in 1980-81) but was told to go around to gate A for some reason.

When you enter by gate A, there are a few concession trucks but the real action is at the other side of the stadium at Alumni Green, where there are plenty of pre-game activities for kids as well as some interesting concessions such as the ice cream/karaoke truck. I stopped to take a picture and then hurried away. Public karaoke is not something anybody should have to endure.

The pictures below are of the field from 3 different angles as you walk from Gate A over to the Alumni Green.

The Earthquakes won two MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003, and have two retired numbers for John Doyle and Ronald Cerritos; these are commemorated shields and jerseys respectively.

I had a seat in the first row looking at one of the goals. This was a mistake. I expected nothing in front of me, but there was a pathway that was in use for the entire game. So I saw some soccer, but also a lot of asses as people walked back and forth during the match. Sit about 10 rows up to avoid this annoyance. Before the game though, you can stand here to take photos of the players as they warm up.

Quake Brandon McDonald

The stadium is OK for college sports, but as a professional league venue, especially one of this stature, it is sorely lacking in amenities. For soccer, it might not be such a big deal as the games are less than two hours, but the team knows that their digs are inferior and there are plans to build a new stadium. In the meantime, if you are in San Jose at the same time as the Earthquakes, try to attend a game; it can be good fun if you are sitting high enough.

I should note that some games are played in Stanford's football stadium when the visiting team is more of a draw, such as the New York Red Bulls with former Arsenal star Thierry Henry.

The Game

San Jose came in with a record of 1-2-2 while Chivas was winless on season, with 3 draws from their 5 matches.

The first 10 minutes were played mostly in the midfield as the teams tried to feel each other out. Chivas had a chance early with a ball off the post, but it was San Jose who opened the scoring when Chris Wondolowski, last season's scoring leader, headed home from a sharp angle. That's him celebrating below as Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy picks himself up off the ground.

After that, Chivas took over. I was sitting in the other end for that half and I'd say that San Jose had maybe 3 rushes into the Chivas goal area over the final 30 minutes, none of which resulted in a serious scoring chance. I spent the half craning my neck to see the action 100 metres away.

The visitors were rewarded for their persistence with a goal in stoppage time when Alejandro Moreno flicked a header past Jon Busch to send the game to halftime tied at 1.

The second half saw Chivas continue to create chances. Below is a shot of Busch making a kick stop on a point-blank shot from Marcos Mondaini.

It looked like a draw was on the cards, but a late defensive collapse by San Jose allowed Justin Braun a clean break on the right side. His shot was saved by Busch but the rebound went into the feet of Mariano Trujillo, who bundled it home. I was making my way upstairs to take some pictures from a different angle and turned around just in time to see the goal, but could only capture a picture of the Chivas celebration below. Both Braun and Trujillo were substitutes and their energy was apparent on this goal.

There were few fouls in this game and only a couple of times when players rolled around in pain. Below is Jorge Flores recovering from a tackle.

Simon Elliot with a free kick

San Jose had no reply and Chivas went on to win 2-1 for their first victory of the young season. San Jose skipper Frank Yallop, a former Canadian national player and coach, bemoaned his squad's lack of effort after the game. Highlights can be found at the MLS Matchcenter.


There was an exhibition wrestling match on the Alumni Green before the soccer match. It featured two masked wrestlers from Pro Wrestling Revolution. It was great fun to watch as the hero and villain did battle for a few minutes, including some moves on the lawn outside the ring.

The photo above is the hero jumping from the ring post onto the lawn, where fans were scattering. Below is the winning move, the sitting suplex or something similar.

Frankly, the wrestling was more interesting than the soccer game, at least I had a clear view.



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