SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It wasn't pretty, but the Vancouver Whitecaps managed to earn a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night.
After conceding an early goal to defending Major League Soccer MVP Chris Wondolowski, surprise starter Corey Hertzog scored in unusual fashion a quarter hour into the second half to level the score.
With two Earthquakes players choosing to exit the field of play to change footwear, Vancouver pressed forward with a two-man advantage and found the equalizer through Hertzog.
"I thought it was a very exciting and entertaining game," said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie. "I felt we started slow and put ourselves in a difficult position going down a goal, but I thought after that we regained our composure."
Vancouver had a shout for a penalty kick late in the game that could have given them the win, but it was the inspired play of goalkeeper Joe Cannon and the Whitecaps defence throughout an onslaught of San Jose scoring opportunities that allowed them a share of the spoils.
"We didn't hit the panic button tonight," said Cannon. "They keep coming at you at the end of games, so I am surprised I had any energy left after that last five minutes."
Last season, the Earthquakes had a near legendary ability to come back late in matches to score game-tying and game-winning goals, but the Whitecaps would not see the result slip away and they ended their three match road trip on a positive note.
"They came at us at the end," said Rennie, "but we stood up to that. It was an excellent point for us, and now we return home glad to have something solid to build on."
Cannon, a former Earthquakes goalkeeper who also played his college soccer at intimate Buck Shaw Stadium, agreed with his coach.
"For team morale it was great for the guys to see their hard work pay off," said Cannon. "I hope it is something we can build off for the rest of the year."
The night did not start out very promising for Vancouver, as for the second week in a row, it conceded the first goal of the match. In the 18th minute, Whitecaps nemesis Wondolowski scored a spectacular shot after defender Alain Rochat turned the ball over deep in the defensive third.
It was Wondolowski's seventh goal all-time against Vancouver in just six games since the club joined MLS in 2011.
Forced to play from behind, Vancouver shifted the momentum of the match in their favor following the goal and began to see more possession in the San Jose half. With DP forward Kenny Miller out of action and speedster Darren Mattocks on the bench, the 'Caps were unable to take advantage of numerous forays into the 'Quakes area and were unable to register a single shot on goal in the first half.
Unable to register a single shot on goal for just over an hour to open the match, the Whitecaps made their first count. Hertzog collected a deflected shot from Diago Kobayashi in the 62nd minute and calmly slotted it past goalkeeper Jon Busch for the equalizer. Vancouver was playing with a two-man advantage, as two Earthquakes players had voluntarily left the field to change their boots and were not waved back onto the field by head referee Fotis Bazakos before the goal was scored.
In the 74th minute, substitute midfielder Camillo had a strong call for a penalty kick as he carried possession into the Earthquakes area before being bumped off the ball by defender Dan Gargan. However, Bazakos waved the play on despite the howls of protest from the Whitecaps bench.
San Jose pressed relentlessly through the end of regulation and into stoppage time, but the defence stood strong when they needed to most. In the 94th minute, Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin found space entering the area and unleashed a shot that eluded Cannon but bounced off the far post. Wondolowski collected the rebound, but his shot was deflected away by a sliding defender from in front of an open goal.
The Whitecaps return home after completing a 0-2-1 road trip, but finishing with a hard fought draw at San Jose provides a swing in confidence that the team will look to carry them moving forward.