After stringing together a couple of home wins and getting a mental boost from Chris Wondolowski's selection to the US National team for this summer's Gold Cup, the Earthquakes were riding high coming into their US Open Cup match against the Chicago Fire. Before I left for Buck Shaw, I read a quote from Quakes coach Frank Yallop talking about how he was not going to use the USOC match to get playing time for his subs, but when they handed the roster out on the sidelines, it was full of guys who almost never play including keeper Andrew Weber, defender Steven Beitashour, forward Ellis McLoughlin, and midfielders Justin Morrow & Anthony Ampaipitakwong. It's always an adventure. As has been the case for the last couple of matches, physical, borderline-violent play was the rule. Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini tackled any Quakes player with the ball:
Beitashour had his hands full, but played well against Chicago's taller forwards:
The physical play when the other way as well:
Since losing center mid Simon Dawkins to injury, the Quakes have struggled to collect and distribute the ball through the midfield, and have started just blasting the ball (goal kicks, clearances etc) to Wondolowski who is then expected to win the ball in the air with his back to goal and then lay it off to a teammate. Except Wondolowski isn't tall enough to do this, and he should be the one running onto the ball and creating space. Sights like this are a total waste of the Golden Boot winning striker:
Morrow did well with his opportunity, making some nice runs down the line and punching in goal from close range:
Weber did not do well at all. He misjudged several balls, and both his hands and feet failed him. I'm sure more than a few fans were wishing that the Quakes had held on to longtime keeper Joe Cannon who is currently riding the bench in Vancouver.
After Chicago collected two goals in the second half to send the match into overtime, referee Daniel Radford stared to lose control:
After Radford ejected Fire defender Gonzalo Segares for what appeared to be instigating a fight, Segares refused to leave the field, and then literally chased Radford until the linesmen came in to break it up:
Just as the match was really degenerating due to tempers and 120 minutes of play, it was over and time for a shootout. Chicago's Logan Pause missed his kick, but that was followed by the Quakes' Cronin hitting the bar. Forward Scott Sealy, another seldom-used Quakes player then hit the crossbar himself. In 12 shots, neither keeper so much as touched the ball. The Fire advanced 5-4.
The match didn't count in the MLS standings, but with Dawkins still out and Wondolowski to miss up to four matches while on national team duty, the Quakes are in a tough spot in their quest to equal or better last year's semifinal run.