Earthquakes salvage 1-1 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps

Whitecaps missed an opportunity to clinch top spot for the first time in club history

VANCOUVER — Valeri Qazaishvili scored in the 77th minute to cancel out Yordy Reyna’s first-half goal as the San Jose Earthquakes salvaged a 1-1 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday.

With the point, Vancouver (15-11-7) remains first in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, but missed an opportunity to clinch top spot for the first time in club history.

The Whitecaps sit two points up on both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

San Jose (12-14-7), meanwhile, moved into the final playoff spot in the West after earning the hard-fought point.

With the Whitecaps seemingly in control in the second half, Qazaishvili took a sneaky pass from Chris Wondolowski before cooly beating Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for his fifth of the season.

Qazaishvili then nearly gave his team the lead moments later, forcing a great leaping save out of Marinovic.

Reyna opened things in the 29th minute with his sixth goal when the classy striker finished off a great move where Cristian Techera played a ball into the path of a hard-charging Jake Nerwinski.

The Vancouver right back in turn fed a pinpoint pass across the face of goal that Reyna, who missed the first half of the season and spurred the Whitecaps’ climb up the standings, cooly steered his shot home in tight to send the crowd of 22,120 at B.C. Place Stadium into a frenzy.

Reyna had an excellent opportunity to win it in the 86th minute, but Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell stood tall.

Brek Shea then sent a header over the top off a corner a few minutes later before another chance went wide in injury time as the Whitecaps pressed for the three points.

Vancouver closes out the regular season next Sunday in Portland against the Timbers, while the Earthquakes are home to Minnesota United.

Coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls last Saturday, the Whitecaps had Reyna (Peru), Marinovic (New Zealand) and defender Kendall Waston (Costa Rica) all back from international duty.

Waston actually scored the goal that clinched his country’s place in next summer’s World Cup, while Reyna and Marinovic could face off against each other with their respective national teams in a two-legged playoff next month for a spot at the tournament in Russia.

Vancouver started Saturday’s match somewhat sloppy in possession with a number of needless giveaways, perhaps feeling the nerves of the occasion.

Whitecaps striker Fredy Montero had a header partially blocked by an Earthquakes defender in the 18th minute before Wondolowski forced a fingertip save in the 22nd from Marinovic, who made his first home start in place of David Ousted.

Shea had a great chance for Vancouver four minutes later after the ball fell to him in the San Jose penalty area, but Tarbell made an excellent diving stop with his left hand.

But Tarbell could do nothing moments later when Reyna, who returned to the Peruvian national team after nearly two years on the outside looking in, tapped home a goal that sent Vancouver on its way.

Montero had a chance to put the Whitecaps up by two in the 48th minute on a quick counterattack, but Tarbell was there to make a fine stop before again thwarting the Colombian in the 60th to give his team a chance.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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