Just seconds away from snatching only their second road win of the season, the Union conceded a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time that left them with a 2-2 tie at the San Jose Earthquakes.
“We weren’t able to make a final play to kill off the game, and with 30 seconds left, we paid the price,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We wanted to push the tempo and try to get three points. I thought we did enough to do so.”
Josh Yaro conceded the foul, kicking former Union winger Shea Salinas in the leg with under a minute left to play. It was unquestionably the right call, and it wasn’t the first time this season that a mistake by Yaro has led directly to an opponent’s goal.
“He has to learn from it,” Curtin said. “He played a decent game but centerbacks are judged for the full 90 minutes. … When you look at it, Salinas’ touch gets away, [the ball] goes out of bounds, so Josh doesn’t really need to tackle.”
Chris Wondolowski made no mistake from the spot, as Union goalkeeper John McCarthy guessed wrong on which way the veteran scorer would shoot.
It was a disastrous end to a game that the Union (8-11-6, 30 points) could easily have won, even after conceding the game’s first goal within three minutes of kickoff.
Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili, a 24-year-old Georgian midfielder who joined the Earthquakes (9-10-6, 33 points) last month as a Designated Player, scored in his first start for the team. He spun around Alejandro Bedoya, dribbled past Roland Alberg and shot between Jack Elliott and Giliano Wijnaldum – not all of whom appeared to do much to apply defensive pressure.
It will not have gone unnoticed by however many Union fans stayed up late for the game that a player of Vako’s skills and qualities was exactly the kind of player the Union did not sign during the summer transfer window, while many other teams around MLS improved their squads.
The Union’s first decent chance came in the 14th minute, after San Jose’s Florian Jungwirth was booked for barreling into Chris Pontius on the right wing. Haris Medunjanin sent in a free kick that forced Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell to awkwardly punch the ball out of play. The ensuing corner kick came to nothing.
Another yellow card came out in the 34th minute, this time for San Jose’s Aníbal Godoy. He slid spikes-first into a leaping Alberg, which could have easily have been more than just a booking.
The ensuing free kick led to the Union’s fourth corner kick of the game. Alberg played a short pass to Medunjanin, whose cross produced a big scramble in the box, and Jack Elliott pounced to score his first goal as a pro.
San Jose nearly took the lead right back seconds later, but John McCarthy made an excellent save to deny Vako from 12 yards. That helped the first half end tied at 1-1.
Another set piece helped the Union get their second goal. In the 55th minute, Elliott got his head to a long throw-in by Pontius, and Alberg smashed in a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Jim Curtin’s first substitution came in the 73rd minute, and it produced a name who hadn’t been heard from in a long time: Keegan Rosenberry. It was Rosenberry’s first appearance in a league contest since May 17, a stretch of 13 games. He replaced Wijnaldum, who had taken a whack to his left ankle a few minutes earlier.
Six minutes later, Alberg departed. He was replaced by Adam Najem, a young playmaker who has been pushing hard for playing time but hasn’t yet unseated Alberg or Ilsinho. Marcus Epps was the final substitute, replacing Pontius in the 88th minute.
Next up for the Union is a visit to Major League Soccer’s best team by some distance, Toronto FC, on Wednesday (8 p.m., TCN). Last season’s MLS Cup runners-up have the league’s best record by seven points, over second-in-the-east New York City FC.
The Union sit in ninth. Montreal holds the East’s last playoff spot, in sixth place with 36 points.