Ten seasons at Spartan Stadium followed by seven seasons at Buck Shaw Stadium never quite gave the Earthquakes the home field advantage every team hopes for. The inaugural match at Avaya stadium, however, proved to provide such an advantage for Northern California’s premier soccer club in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire.
18,000 fans packed the newly built Avaya Stadium, marking the first time in San Jose franchise history that it played in a stadium solely its own.
“It’s really loud,” said goalkeeper David Bingham, who played directly in front of the San Jose Ultras in the first half. “Especially on the one (supporters) end. It’s hard to talk lines ahead of you, so even me talking to the back line is a bit difficult. But it’s definitely going to be a big home field advantage for us.”
San Jose took an early lead when Fatai Alashe — a U.S. U-23 call up and the Earthquakes first pick in this past year’s SuperDraft — scored five minutes into the game on a beautiful corner from Matias Perez Garcia.
“It was a great ball in,” Alashe recalled. “Clay (Clarence Goodson) got a good head on it, keeper was kind of out a little bit. I was just doing my job trying to stay in front of him. When the ball got headed back in front of goal, I just did whatever I could to get a touch on it and put it in the back of the net.”
The rookie didn’t just contribute on the scoresheet — he was also a physical presence on the back end. A holding midfielder that has drawn comparisons to former U.S. national team member Ricardo Clark, Alashe routinely battled with Chicago’s forwards and often broke up Chicago’s attack before anything could be considered threatening.
Chris Wondolowski agreed. “I’m proud of that guy. The way that he played, he scored the goal, but I think the way that he played midfield — he’s a great player.”
The Earthquakes would strike again 16 minutes after the Alashe goal, as Ty Harden put one in on a scramble in front of the net. It was a service by Perez Garcia, again, that gave the Chicago defense trouble. The service found an Earthquake boot that directed on net, but was sloppily blocked by Chicago keeper Sean Johnson. As the ball died three yards out from the goal line, Harden slid into the ball, poking it into the back of the net.
Chicago would respond shortly after with a goal by Harrison Shipp. In the 29th minute, Chicago forwards caught the San Jose defense leaning too far to the right. Joevin Jones found a wide open Shipp on the backdoor with a nice ball played into space. Shipp then placed the ball into the corner of the goal for Chicago’s first goal of the year.
But the goal provided little in the way of momentum, and San Jose seemed to have it all game long. The second half saw minimal opportunities for Chicago as San Jose played to hold the lead and did so quite well. With the first game at Avaya Stadium in the books, San Jose will look to build on their home field advantage April 5th against Real Salt Lake.
Alashe and Thompson get call-up to USMNT
Fatai Alashe and Tommy Thompson both got the nod to join the U.S. national team after the Earthquakes’ game on Sunday. Thompson will be joining the U-20 team in London while Alashe will be joining the U-23 team in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Alashe, an All-American at Michigan State, spoke on the prestigious chance, “It’s something that’s really important to me, obviously. I’ve always wanted an opportunity to get in with the national team. This is my chance and I’m going to try my best to take advantage of it.”
Both Fatai and Tommy will miss the next Earthquakes game against New England, but Coach Dominic Kinnear doesn’t seem to mind.
“We have good players. Tommy is leaving and Fatai is leaving,” Coach Kinnear said. “I mean, you’re happy for them and you’d love for them to stay, but you’re happy for them because you know they’re being recognized for their talents.”
In the 72nd minute, fans cheered former Earthquakes goaltender Jon Busch as he was shown on the scoreboard warming up. A thumbs up from the former player was met with the Ultras starting a “Jon Busch, clap-clap-clap” chant. Busch had started the two games prior while incumbent goalie Sean Johnson was out with an injury.