for this game

Earthquakes avoid elimination, blank Red Bulls

Oct 4, 2009 - 6:11 AM By GEOFF LEPPER STATS MLS Correspondent

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (STATS) - The San Jose Earthquakes may have finally found a group of players that meet the specifications of coach Frank Yallop.

Too bad they'll almost certainly have to wait another year to see if that makes them playoff worthy.

Ryan Johnson converted a first-half penalty kick to help the Earthquakes avoid mathematical elimination from the MLS postseason chase with a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night.

"At the beginning of this season, we were very, very easy to play against," Yallop said. "We have moved people on and moved people out that I think weren't maybe up to the task of playing the way I want to play it."

San Jose is 4-2-3 in its last nine games with three shutouts after opening the season 3-10-4 without a single clean sheet. Since the Earthquakes would have to win all four of their remaining matches and receive plenty of help to sneak into the postseason, the push is probably too late to save 2009, but it could be a springboard to an improved 2010 campaign.

"The table doesn't lie; we haven't got enough points to make the playoffs," Yallop said. "What I am pleased with is we've not rolled over and died in the season. That's an important character thing to have for next season. We're keeping this team together as much as we can."

The loss cemented New York's slide from MLS Cup finalist last season to the league's last-place finisher this year. The Red Bulls (4-18-6) had their league-record, regular-season road winless streak extended to 26 games. New York is 0-19-7 away from home since a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles on May 10, 2008.

"It's time to go out there and just work your (butt) off, to be blunt, try to salvage whatever you can from these last three games," New York defender Mike Petke said. "It's easy to pack it in and throw the towel in when you're not playing for anything, but you can play for pride, you can play for team, the organization, the fans."

San Jose forward Arturo Alvarez, whose low drive in the 21st minute was turned aside by a diving Bouna Coundoul, drew the deciding penalty kick three minutes later.

Alvarez held the ball wide on the right wing before splitting Petke and teammate Jeremy Hall, who was called for clipping Alvarez from behind to give the Quakes their fifth penalty kick of the season.

"I think it's unfortunate the game is decided on the wrong call by the referee on the penalty kick," New York interim coach Richie Williams said. "You see the replay, you see the player wasn't fouled and falls down, and to lose the game on that call is a bad feeling."

Johnson hammered a left-footed shot in the opposite direction of a lunging Coundoul for his 10th goal of the season. He became the first Quakes player to reach double digits since Brian Ching scored 12 times in 2004.

Although San Jose's defense has allowed the most goals per match of any MLS club, New York's league-worst offense could not generate much of a pulse, even though the Earthquakes had to replace center backs Andre Luiz and Brandon McDonald in mid-game due to injury.

"In the final third, that was the most disappointing part, just trying to get some chances," Williams said. "I thought we could have been a little bit sharper. . . . The final pass, whether it was a cross or a shot on goal, I don't think we tested (San Jose goalkeeper) Joe Cannon enough with some of the opportunities we had."

Juan Pablo Angel, New York's top goal-scorer, got free for a 20-yard blast in the 51st minute, but Cannon made a right-handed save to neutralize the threat. Cannon also punched away a dangerous header from Andrew Boyens in the 87th minute.