During the first half, Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made a spectacular diving save on a header by San Jose Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson.
It was a different story when the header came from one of the top strikers in the Major League Soccer less than 10 minutes into the second half as Sporting KC dropped a 1-0 decision Sunday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Defender Steven Beitashour sent a cross toward Chris Wondolowski at the penalty spot in the 55th minute, volleying a ball that had been deflected. Wondolowski, who is the reigning MLS MVP and set a league record with 27 goals last season, redirected the ball inside the right post and past another fully stretched diving try by Nielsen.
Once again, the decisive goal wasn’t without controversy.
“I’m tired of it,” coach Peter Vermes said. “We lost another point because the refs can’t make a call. It’s very frustrating. And it’s incredibly frustrating to a team when the players are fighting like they are.”
Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler never managed to recover and get in front of Alan Gordon, whose run drew both central defenders toward goal, while right back Chance Myers was caught behind Wondolowski, who was credited with his eighth goal of the season.
“Both guys were offsides,” Vermes said. “I’ve seen a still photo and both guys were offsides. It should have been called, but (the assistant referee) was in a bad position.”
Before that, the defense had buoyed Sporting KC, 11-8-6, which was forced to play while staring into a setting sun during the first half.
During the 33rd minute, off a Marvin Chavez free kick after Collin picked up his league-leading 10th yellow card, defender Clarence Goodson sent a sizzling header low and on frame.
However, Nielsen kept the game scoreless with a spectacular diving save, swatting Goodson’s shot to Lawrence Olum for a swift clearance.
Of course, the Earthquakes, 9-10-6, eventually would break through and improved to 8-1-4 at home this season and 4-0-1 all-time against Sporting KC at Buck Shaw.
“The game was very ugly,” Vermes said. “Playing games like that is a good lesson for our team if we ever come up against a team like this again, we’ll know what to expect.”
Forward Teal Bunbury, who subbed on for Claudio Bieler in the 56th minute, troubled San Jose’s back line with his speed, while Beitashour appeared to take down Soony Saad as he chased a ball toward the left post midway through the second half with no penalty awarded.
“It was a football tackle, but again the call wasn’t made,” Vermes said. “It’s a travesty when you go into games and this stuff happens time and time again. At some point, it has to be different. It’s not right and it’s not fair for the amount of work that everybody puts into these games.”