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San Jose Earthquakes hang on for hard-fought 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake

Despite collecting their second consecutive draw, a hard-fought 1-1 result at Real Salt Lake, the San Jose Earthquakes dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference standings on Saturday following other results around MLS.

The Colorado Rapids, formerly the worst team in the league based on points earned per game, beat Minnesota United 3-2 to earn three points at home, leapfrogging the Quakes into 12th place in the West. San Jose, with 11 points from 16 games, has nowhere to go but up.

Step by step

The Earthquakes used a Danny Hoesen goal to cancel out a Damir Kreilach strike, as the visitors shared the spoils at Rio Tinto Stadium. It was not so much a step forward, in a season that it is off to a historically bad start, as it was not a step backward.

“We are in a bad situation in this league,” Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We are struggling results-wise so that’s why I’m really happy the guys came back and scored a goal. It’s still one point on the road and I’m pretty happy with the result.”

San Jose has such a large points deficient after winning only twice all season that a road draw — a result that typically is worth celebrating — still feels like another lost opportunity. Not that it was going to be an easy game going in, after all, as RSL had won its last six games at the RioT prior to the Quakes arrival.

With the biggest game on the calendar coming up — the annual California Clasico against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium — followed by two road contests at the Portland Timbers and Montreal Impact, the Quakes need to pick up points wherever they can, especially when the opportunities arise.

Shot by shot

The numbers show that Real Salt Lake had more shots (27-15) and shots on goal (8-4) than San Jose, and the hosts felt they deserved to win Saturday night. But a lack of quality finishing did them in, and the Quakes’ defense, which has been heavily criticized all season, did just enough to survive the RSL attack.

The Earthquakes had their own issues with finding the back of the net, with Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili hitting the post in the 85th minute with a chance to put the visitors on top, but the most egregious instance happened in stoppage time when Hoesen had a chance to double his tally with only goalkeeper Nick Rimando to beat.

“We stayed in the game for the full 90 minutes,” Hoesen said. “I had a chance to make the winner, but they also had chances. I think we can be happy with the 1-1.”

After repelling an RSL advance — as well as a penalty appeal from the hosts — Fatai Alashe crushed a ball far up the field and into the attacking third. Hoesen, after battling Marcelo Silva for possession, spun inside the area and shifted the ball to his favored right foot.

The Quakes leader scorer this season with 10 goals failed to notch number 11, as he pursued power over placement and skied his shot well over the bar. Hoesen slumped to his knees at the lost opportunity to steal the points at the death, but there was still work to be done to keep the score at 1-1.

Save by save

Spared from the shock of conceding late, Real Salt Lake continued its assault on the Earthquakes’ goal, nearly finding a winner in the 93rd minute. Jefferson Savarino, on his fifth shot of the night, blasted one on target from the top of the box that required a diving save from Andrew Tarbell to push the ball wide of the post.

It was a spectacular effort from the Quakes’ ‘keeper, his seventh save of the night, matching his career high, and it continued the host’s frustrations at not punishing the league’s last place team.

“Our defense did a really good job of making them shoot from distance so all the chances weren’t clear on goal,” Tarbell said. “I had the opportunity to know which side they were going, which helps me a lot. Our defense did a really good job of not giving them clear opportunities.”

The good work from Tarbell almost went unrewarded, as on the last sequence of the game, 30 seconds past the three minutes of alloted stoppage time, RSL had a golden chance to take the lead. Silva, eluding Tarbell’s clearance attempt on a corner kick, headed the ball off the crossbar from close range, and the Quakes cleared the danger ahead of the final whistle.

It would have been a goal that Tarbell would have assumed responsibility for, but he was spared from having to do so by his best friend, the woodwork.

The Earthquakes winless streak now stands at seven following the result with RSL, and while no progress was made in the team’s effort to reverse course in the standings, San Jose will hope to build some momentum this week ahead of Saturday’s Cali Clasico.

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