The Quakes continued their run of dominance at Avaya Stadium Sunday, grabbing a statement 2-1 victory against defending MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers. The victory moved them to 2-0-0 at Avaya this season and to 9-3-5 all time against Portland.
San Jose managed to strike first in this one, with Chris Wondolowski continuing his blazing start to the season. His second tally of the campaign was an aesthetically pleasing finish, as he took the hard ground cross from newcomer Anibal Godoy to slot in between the legs of unsuspecting goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. First-time starter Kip Colvey had a hand in the goal as well, sending the through ball.
Wondolowski was appreciative of everyone involved in the scoring play:
“I thought it was a great ball by Kip to find Godoy that set that up. Godoy looked up and play a great ball to me. I was able to make a near post run and tap it in. It was good build up throughout.”
Just before the end of the first half, Wondolowski’s strike partner Quincy Amarikwa doubled the lead with a highlight-reel effort. Amarikwa broke off a long run down the right side, looked up to see Kwarasey off his line and launched an audacious chip shot which teased the outstretched arm of the keeper before floating into the upper left corner of the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Amarikwa said he always keeps that type of shot in his arsenal:
“Most keepers play off their line to help support their backline. So in the back of your mind you’re always thinking, if I can get the ball and turn it quickly, I’ll have a chance or an opportunity to. If you don’t make it, you’re just giving it back to the other team, so it’s gotta feel right for you at the time and in that moment I thought it was on so I went for it.”
According to Amarikwa, there was a feeling right away that the ball was going in:
“Once I made contact with it, I knew I hit it hard enough so I thought it was in unless the keeper could move his feet fast enough to get a touch to it. I knew it had a chance of being a goal.”
Early in the second half, Amarikwa attempted another similar effort from about midfield, but couldn’t find the magic touch again. Much to the delight of the fan base, the 74th minute saw another lob attempt from the forward, this one also off the mark high and wide.
Earthquakes-Timbers photo gallery
Amarikwa attributed the next two shots from confidence drawn from the first goal:
“Once you go for one, then you’re thinking, oh I can do it every time now. The other two times led to that [type of shot]. Portland was pressing really high and unless I’m thinking I can sprint past their four defenders when were pinned in our half, it’s a difficult task.”
Wondo nearly added a third tally to the scoreline in both the 59th and 66th minutes. In the first attempt, the in-form striker gracefully twisted and turned the ball past the opposing center backs, but a heavy touch cost him a wide open chance on goal. The latter effort came after a long build up from Amarikwa, who laid it off to Simon Dawkins who in set up a hard Wondolowski shot across the face of goal. Kwarasey just narrowly got a hand on it to put it wide left and out of play.
Portland did not go down easily. Attack-minded Lucas Melano and Darlington Nagbe were constantly creating chances, 16 shots in total. But much of their offensive effort on the day came through crosses from the wings, which played right into the hands of the Quakes.
The San Jose defense put on a typically stellar performance, blocking the majority of shots and crosses. Big center halves Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez led the way with massive stops on would-be goal chances from attacking midfielders Lucas Melano and Diego Valeri. Not to be outdone, fullbacks Marvell Wynne and youngster Kip Colvey several times blocked incoming crosses.
In the 90th minute, the Timbers were rewarded for their efforts with a late goal. Off a high floating rebound, center back Nat Borchers headed a ball back into the box where well-respected poacher Jack McInerney showed up to finish gently past goalkeeper and national team hopeful David Bingham.
A few minutes later, Portland almost found the equalizer off a long ball in from Nagbe. The Quakes’ backline was only able to head it on towards goal, where McInerney narrowly missed an opportunity to get a shot off, due to tenacious recovery defense by San Jose.
Timbers coach Caleb Porter said that finishing off those chances made the difference in the result:
“It was kind of a sloppy game, sloppy field and in saying that, we still had the better chances on the day. But the game comes down to what you do in the boxes. They finished theirs and we didn’t and they won the game.”
Coach Dom Kinnear acknowledged it was going to be difficult to defend the lead against a team like Portland, especially when they were desperate to score:
“We knew they were going to make a push and we had to sit in a little bit, which we didn’t really want to do but it happens.”
The Quakes broke down Portland’s defense in the second half, finishing with eight shots, after only three shots in the first half — two of those finding back of the net.
Bingham had another good performance to start off the season, tallying his second win in as many games while allowing his first goal. With the combined performance of Bingham and defenders in front of him, Portland was stifled with poor quality chances through the majority of the game.
Sunday’s win ended a streak of poor San Jose form against the Timbers. In 13 all-time meetings prior to Sunday, the Quakes claimed three points just once. A much different streak was continued with this victory. Since 2012, San Jose is now 6-3-2 against reigning MLS champions. The Quakes were 2-1-0 against the LA Galaxy in 2015 and are now 1-0-0 against the Timbers in 2016.
Rainy conditions may have played a role in this victory, as players were slipping and falling left and right. Most notably, Nagbe was orchestrating a good looking attack before inadvertently slipping in a puddle to ignite a San Jose counter attack. The Quakes may not have capitalized, but were fortunate not to concede a shot on goal.
Kinnear didn’t think the weather played a massive role:
“We’ve been practicing all week and the weather’s been wet. But I thought the passing was crisp, from both sides. I don’t think the weather really hampered that part of the game.”
The Quakes’ depth was on display tonight as Colvey impressed in his first start and promising young midfielder, Fatai Alashe made his return from injury. Kinnear was impressed by Colvey’s display:
“It’s a crazy season. Obviously we were a little concerned having Kip out there, knowing they would have Melano or Asprilla or somebody running at him. I thought he had a good game.”
Now sitting on top of the Western Conference, the San Jose Earthquakes will try to continue their hot start to the season on Saturday, March 19, visiting historic rivals LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.