Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: San Jose steals three points from Houston on the road

Houston Dynamo 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes
It was a very dodgy first half. Both sides pressured, Houston a little more so, but they didn't exactly threaten to score until shortly after the half hour mark. Brad Davis scrambled to pick up a weak clearance from the San Jose defense and sailed his shot barely high and wide of the upper corner of the goal for the first real chance of the game.

As Houston started to take the upper hand, San Jose took a blow to their transition game when central midfielder Fatai Alashe was injured and forced to leave in the 29th minute. JJ Koval took his place, but wasn't as effective as Alashe usually would be.

San Jose had a good chance from a Matias Perez Garcia that was saved by Tyler Deric, The rebound eventually fell for Chris Wondolowski, but his header was extremely harmless. That was really it for the first half.

The second half proved to be much livelier.

Houston started on the front foot but still failed to find any payoff. Ricardo Clark drove a low shot that was barely tipped aside by David Bingham. Giles Barnes should have scored, as well, in the 52nd minute when he collected a through ball and got behind the San Jose defense. His shot sailed high and wide.

San Jose stole the lead a couple minutes after that Houston opportunity. Adam Jahn headed home a free kick that the orange defenders were hardly ready for. The ball was only set for the kick for a split second before Perez Garcia came flying in to deliver a perfect feed to the head of Jahn for the goal.

Houston would have a golden opportunity get right back on the level in the 58th minute after a scramble in the box led to a penalty against the Quakes' keeper. Barnes stepped up to take the kick and tried to go lower right corner, but Bingham was ready for it and parried it away to safety.

That would be it for them in terms of real chances. San Jose was content just parking the bus and only pushing forward when they felt like it. Their defensive stance was quite enough to earn the 1-0 victory. David Bingham wins my man of the match. His goaltending was superb despite rarely being tested.

Houston may have dominated possession for most of the game, especially the second half, but their final third play left a lot to be desired. Shots missed the mark, passes were misplaced, and the cohesion in the attacking end was just plain not there. The Dynamo are now winless in four and are outside the playoff picture by three points.

San Jose, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last four and level on points with LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City for fourth in the West.

Going from watching the pinnacle of the sport in the Champions League in the afternoon down to MLS at night really makes clear the vast gap that MLS has to span to become what it aspires to be. The passes were sloppy, the finishing was poor, and the speed of the game was slow. Maybe this boring match wasn't exactly the best comparison, but MLS games don't get near the skill level of any top flight in Europe.

Not that I think this is a huge problem, more of an observation. Nobody, not even the league itself, should ever mistake MLS for some top-tier operation. It was just a radical change going from the semi-final of the biggest club competition in the world, to a pair of mid-table MLS outfits.

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