Quakes snuff Fire in Avaya opener

Earthquakes Head Coach Dom Kinnear used one word to describe the feeling of coaching the first-ever game at the Earthquakes first-ever exclusive home Sunday afternoon:

“Progress.”

It’s a word that also describes the team’s improvement on the field since last year, as the Quakes christened their new home in memorable fashion.

The Earthquakes didn’t disappoint the sellout crowd of 18,000 fans in Sunday’s opening of their new $100 million Avaya Stadium, scoring two goals in the first 21 minutes t0 secure their first victory in front of home support since last August.

Avaya Stadium felt like an actual earthquake at times on Sunday, with the stadium literally shaking throughout the match. The atmosphere on opening day was going to be raucous regardless, but Kinnear said the early goals upped the excitement:

“I think when those goals went in the roof was getting shouted off the hinges here.”

The Earthquakes have promoted Avaya as one of the loudest venues in the league, and unlike neighboring Levi’s Stadium, it seemed to pass the initial test according to Quake’s goalkeeper David Bingham:

“It’s really loud. Especially on the (supporters) end. It’s hard to talk lines ahead of you. Talking to the back line is a bit difficult but it’s definitely going to be a home field advantage for us.”

San Jose has now won consecutive games for the first time since August 2 of last year, showing that the stadium isn’t the only thing that’s improved in 2015.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

The Quakes earned their first victory at Avaya on the unlikely feet of defender Ty Harden and rookie defensive midfielder Fatai Alashe. The goal rounded out a memorable day for Alashe, who was called up to the U.S. Under-23 team just hours before scoring the first goal in the new stadium’s history.

Harry Shipp scored for Chicago in the 29th minute, giving the Fire their first and only goal of 2014. Chicago has lost their first three games of 2015.

Johnson’s set piece issues

Former Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch did not play after starting the first two games of the season for the injured Sean Johnson, but might be in consideration for the first spot after Sunday.

Johnson had a horrid first half for Chicago, with gaffes on set pieces leading to both Earthquake goals. The first came just five minutes in when Johnson ran off his line to attempt a punched clearance on a Matias Perez Garcia corner. Similar to David Bingham’s gaffe that cost San Jose the Dallas game, Johnson failed to reach the ball, leaving his goal open for an easy headed tap in by Fatai Alashe.

Johnson’s second error occurred in the 21st minute again on a San Jose set piece, when Johnson spilled a Clarence Goodson volley in front of goal, leading to another easy tap in, this time from Quakes defender Ty Harden.

Johnson was put at a disadvantage, however, by two excellent balls by Quakes set piece specialist Matias Perez Garcia, who Kinnear said has impressed in his last two games:

“He delivers a great ball and it wasn’t just those two. I’ve been really happy with Matias. I thought his 50 or so minutes in Seattle he was excellent, unfortunately we had to make a change with the red card. I thought tonight on the ball he picked the right pass and is a really intelligent player.”

Defensive changes

The Earthquakes trotted out a new center half pairing with Victor Bernardez on red card suspension and Paulo Renato out with a hamstring injury. Clarence Goodson returned after his long absence and partnered with Ty Harden.

The changes may have lead to some communication issues in the 29th minute, when neither Harden nor right-back Shaun Francis were near Fire forward Harry Shipp, who easily scored after getting on the end of a routine through ball from Joevin Jones.

Chicago striker Quincy Amarikwa took advantage of Harden’s lack of pace early in the second half, easily beating him down the right sideline only to fluff his chipped shot over Bingham’s net.

Harden had another close call just minutes later, swinging and missing on an attempted clearance that luckily rolled past Bingham’s far post.

For the most part, however, the back line was solid, with Bingham only forced to make one difficult save all afternoon. Clarence Goodson was a standout, and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat after an extended absence. The veteran had a huge block in the 90th minute that saved what could have been an equalizing opportunity.

The duo also played a part on the Earthquake’s second goal. Kinnear said he was pleased with their overall performance:

“I thought they did pretty good. Chicago did have some possession, we did have a hard time getting out of our half, in the second half, but I thought they defended the box well.”

The Earthquakes will look to make it three in a row for the first time since 2013, when they travel to New England next Saturday to face a struggling Revolution team still looking for its first win.


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