City edged out at Buck Shaw
AN early San Jose goal proved decisive as Norwich City slipped to a 1-0 defeat to the Earthquakes in their pre-season friendly at the Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday.
Cordell Cato intercepted a Russell Martin backpass to net the game's solitary goal on seven minute and settle an even contest of few clearcut opportunities.
The Earthquakes' mid-season sharpness certainly told as they offered the Canaries, who fielded Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer for the first time, a stern test on a balmy night in California.
However, the game once again saw all of City's players get valuable minutes ahead of the new season which begins in less than a month.
Chris Hughton made six changes to his starting eleven from Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Dorados de Sinaloa, with Jonny Howson recovering from illness to start and Mark Bunn replacing John Ruddy in goal.
Darren Huckerby, formerly of both clubs of course, was introduced to a rapturous reception from the crowd just before kick-off as City wisely elected to leave the home goalkeeper facing the setting sun in the first half.
The home team struck the first blow though on seven minutes though – City’s skipper for the night, Russell Martin, attempted to play the ball back to Bunn in City’s goal, but the pass was under hit and Cato raced onto it, placing the ball home.
An already noisy Earthquakes support was now in full voice, but the Canaries showed some verve in attack when Anthony Pilkington and van Wolfswinkel combined well on the left side – the move resulted in Howson shooting from range, with David Bingham palming the shot away.
City settled in their stride but the next phase of the half passed without any goalmouth action despite confident passing and moving from both sides, although Pilkington did force a save when Bingham stopped his free-kick on 29 minutes.
Soon after, Nathan Redmond stole a march on the Earthquakes defence and it looked as though he was about to level for City, but the centre half tracked back and quelled the threat.
Van Wolfswinkel picked up a booking for a late lunge on Steven Beitashour, and the Dutch forward was involved again on 41 minutes when Redmond appeared to set him free but Brad Ring made the vital tackle.
Jacob Butterfield, playing in the advanced role just off van Wolfswinkel, drove a left-footed shot wide, and Mehdi Ballouchi hit over for the hosts moments before the half-time whistle.
HALF-TIME: San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Norwich City
Fer donned the yellow and green for the first time as one of six substitutes for the Canaries for the second half and he pulled a shot wide from 20 yards five minutes into the half.
San Jose’s forwards, Walter Martinez and Marcus Tracy, combined effectively quickly up the other end, but the former blazed his shot over when he should really have tested substitute John Ruddy.
Another half-time entrant, Luciano Becchio, mishit an effort when Fer and Pilkington had worked an opening, before Ramiro Corrales sliced a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Hughton’s team were struggling to create chances, however, against a sharp MLS outfit currently in the middle of their domestic campaign.
Earthquakes’ substitute Adam Jahn went close from inside the six-yard box on 74 minutes following good work from Shea Salinas and Sam Garza, and soon after Salinas had a square ball cleared from danger just in the nick of time.
Further substitutions stunted the fluidity of the first half, and it was San Jose who looked the most likely to trouble the scorers again - Jahn curling an effort around the post after beating the offisde trap from a Corrales pass.
The game petered out in the late stages and it was the hosts who took the victory.
GOALS: San Jose Earthquakes – Cordell Cato (7)
NORWICH CITY: Bunn (Ruddy 45); Gafaiti (Whittaker 45), Ayala (R Bennett 61), R Martin (c), Garrido (Surman 75); Redmond (Snodgrass 45), Howson (Fer 45), Tettey (Fox 80), Pilkington (E Bennett 61); Butterfield (Hoolahan 45); van Wolfswinkel (Becchio 45). Subs not used: Nash (GK), Josh Murphy.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Bingham; Beitashour (Bernardez 62), Ring, Gargan, Stewart (Morrow 62); Cato, Ballouchy, Corrales, Garza; Martinez (Salinas 52), Tracy (Jahn 71). Subs: Newton (GK), Baca, Cronin, Lenhart.