In the history of the matchup between San Jose and Salt Lake, the two teams could not have been more even.
In 31 games between them coming into Saturday’s game at Avaya Stadium, each team had won 10 and they tied the other 11. With only one point separating them in the Western Conference standings, both needed a win.
But it was San Jose that broke the deadlock, in stoppage no less. Earthquakes midfielder Danny Hoesen found the back of the net in the 93rd minute, not only providing San Jose a 1-0 win, but also leapfrogging RSL in the playoff picture.
The goal came on a quick restart after the San Jose forced a corner kick. Paul Marie received a pass played short while some Earthquakes players were arguing a non-call. Marie found Hoesen unmarked in the box, and Hoesen finished.
“Just took a half-second off and we got punished,” Brooks Lennon told KMYU after the game. “This one hurts.”
San Jose dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, putting pressure on Real and attacking the goal relentlessly. Salt Lake settled in, however, and started creating chances of its own.
Statistically speaking, the Real and the Earthquakes were visually as even as their matchup has been over the years. RSL tallied 13 shots to San Jose’s 12, and also had four shots on target to San Jose’s three. The only one-sided aspect for the Earthquakes was them having about 64% of the possession.
At halftime, RSL defender Erik Holt said it was important for the team to keep the clean sheet. For much of the game, it appeared that would happen. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who played in his record 500th Major League Soccer game Saturday, provided two saves before San Jose put one past him.
“This should very much hurt right now because we deserved a point out of that," RSL coach Mike Petke told KMYU after the game. “This better hurt. If it doesn’t hurt these guys right now, then they don’t deserve to be athletes. But I know it hurts them all.”
RSL’s best chance of the evening came in the 65th minute. Brooks Lennon led a buildup into San Jose’s 18-yard box. He passed to Nick Besler, who appeared to lay it off to Corey Baird as he trailed the play. But Besler’s pass was a touch too heavy and rolled out of bounds.
The loss puts Salt Lake back underneath the playoff line at eighth in the conference with 26 points.