SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Vancouver Whitecaps set a Major League Soccer record for team defending on Saturday afternoon.
Then, the defence collapsed.
A 1-0 lead in the second half morphed into a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in the early season Western Conference showdown between unbeaten teams.
The Earthquakes (4-0-1) scored three times, including two goals by Chris Wondolowski and one by ex-Toronto FC forward Alan Gordon, a second-half substitute, in an electrifying 10-minute span.
The scoring spree began in the 68th minute when Wondolowski received a Ramiro Corrales throw-in and outfoxed Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit before chipping the ball over goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
The outburst overshadowed the Whitecaps' setting an MLS mark for consecutive shutout minutes to open a season at 427. The goalless streak reached 422 minutes in the 62nd minute, eclipsing the mark of 421 held by the New York Red Bulls in 2007.
Cannon, who has worked three shutouts, wasn't exactly celebrating the accomplishment.
"It doesn't mean anything. We lost 3-1," he said. "What do you want to say, 'Thanks.' Good luck to the next guy that breaks it. Hope he wins his game."
Cannon, who once starred at Buck Shaw Stadium for Santa Clara University and for three seasons with the Earthquakes, said the Whitecaps were in "cruise control" before the slip-up on the throw-in.
Vancouver (2-1-2) led 1-0 on a goal by Sebastien Le Toux in the 49th minute — his second goal of the season — and nearly struck twice more. It was Vancouver's first goal since a 1-0 road win over Chivas USA on March 17. The Whitecaps thought they deserved a penalty kick, and a chance to lead to 2-0, when midfielder John Thorrington drew contact in the penalty box, to no avail.
Wondolowski's first goal — the first Vancouver allowed all season — was his fifth in three matches against the Whitecaps dating back to last season. Clearly, Vancouver didn't react well to it.
"For that short spell the roof kind of caved in. That's not like us," said first-year Vancouver coach Martin Rennie. "We probably lost more goals in that game than we have, including pre-season, in 13 games.
The Earthquakes and Whitecaps entered Saturday's match with similar storylines. Both revamped teams are off to promising starts after missing the playoffs in 2011.
The Whitecaps stymied the Earthquakes attack in the first half with a compact, hard-marking defence. They nearly struck during a wild sequence in the 41st minute when they had three cracks at it from point-blank range. David Chiumiento's initial shot was saved, and Thorrington's follow banked off the crossbar, before Chiumento's leaping side-volley hit a defender. Finally, a harried Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch scooped up the ball.
Ex-Vancouver player Shea Salinas nearly put San Jose on the board in the 45th minute with a curving shot from the left. Cannon, known for his quick reflex saves, denied him with a diving save.
Vancouver gathered steam as the first half unfolded against an unsteady Earthquakes defence. Big striker Eric Hassli, who sat out last week's 0-0 draw with Philadelphia with a sprained ankle, was effective as a target player. His cross from the left in the 33rd minute was nearly put in by Le Toux, but his toe-poke shot from outside the near post was saved.
After Wondolowski tied it 1-1, he nearly struck again in the 71st minute, but whiffed from in close after former Whitecap Shea Salinas sent a low cross through the goal-mouth. Gordon scored on a header to make it 2-1 on a cross from Ramiro Corrales from the left. Wondolowski capped the scoring with a tap in off a Tressor Moreno free kick.
DeMerit described the San Jose siege as "10 minutes of craziness."
"To be honest, we just shut off for 10 to 15 minutes there," DeMerit said. "It's a great learning experience for us because that's the first time that's happened this season."
The Whitecaps had a scary sequence in the 13th minute after Le Toux stayed down with an apparent left hip injury. As he shook off the blow on the sideline, the Quakes raced down field on a quick counter and Simon Dawkins shot off the far post. However, Dawkins was called offside to wipe out the play.
Hassli, who scored twice against the Earthquakes last season and was No. 2 overall on the club with 10 goals, replaced the suspended Atiba Harris, who was paired last week with Le Toux up front.