The Earthquakes got off to a dream start with fifth minute goal from rookie and newly U23 call up Fatai Alashe and never looked back on their way to a 2-1 victory in front of a raucous crowd at brand new Avaya Stadium.
Three thoughts from the game
1. San Jose has a home
It has taken a long time but the Earthquakes finally have a home to be proud of. Avaya stadium might not be as flashy as Levis’ less than six miles away, but it came across on TV yesterday as a much more impressive home field.
The newly-renamed San Jose Ultras started the game off with a tifo demanding that the home team defend this ground. The Earthquakes were more than up to the task.
The capacity crowd was loud and sang for the full 90 minutes. The energy of the new stadium really seemed to spark San Jose as they came out really pressing Chicago back, and once they got their lead they did well to see it out.
It took 40 years but the Earthquakes finally have a proper home and they are off to a strong start in its inaugural season.
2. Set piece magic
The Earthquakes were dangerous on set pieces — all game long Matias Perez Garcia whipped balls into the box and gave Chicago trouble. Both goals came as a result of the set pieces and it seemed every set piece produced at least a half-chance for San Jose.
The danger that Garica and Innocent Emeghara provided in this game pushed Chicago to foul San Jose in an attempt to stop them. After three goals from open play last week, the Quakes showed they can also score from dead ball situations.
3. Makeshift defense shines
San Jose was forced to test its center back depth with Paulo Renato out injured and Victor Bernardez suspended for his red card last week. The Earthquakes called upon Ty Harden and Clarence Goodson and they responded with outstanding performances.
The pair combined for 13 clearances, five interceptions, two tackles and two blocked shots. They also clamped down on the chances that Chicago was able to produce in San Jose’s penalty box with just four of the 13 shots from inside the 18-yard box and none from inside the six-yard box. They also clamped down late as Chicago pushed for an equalizer, not allowing a single shot on target after the 32nd minute header by Eric Gehrig.
Player Ratings (1-10, 10=Best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
David Bingham – GK, 6.5: Bingham has settled into the starting goal keeper spot impressively. He made a couple good saves and one very impressive reflex save to make sure San Jose opened Avaya Stadium with a win. On the goal that was allowed there really wasn’t much he could do.
Shaun Francis – LB, 7: Francis had one of his best matches of the season thus far. He did well on the defensive side and added some offense to his game. He led the team with five tackles, adding five clearances and three interceptions.
Ty Harden – CB, 8: Harden did excellent job stepping into the starting center back spot. The main highlight: his first ever MLS goal, which also happened to be the game-winner. He was quick to pounce on the loose ball and push it beyond the keeper. On defense he paired well with Goodson, and was effective with his passing as he kept things simple. Harden showed with this game that he is a very capable backup that gives the Earthquakes great depth at the position.
Clarence Goodson – CB, 9: Goodson put in a Man of the Match performance. He was involved with both goals, he pushed the header toward Alashe that he scored and also put the shot on target that Harden was able to finish for the second. He was also excellent defensively, with a team-high eight clearances, two blocked shots (including a big one in stoppage time) and three interceptions. His performance was all the more impressive as this was his first game of the season.
Marvell Wynne – RB, 7: Wynne was more cautious going forward this week but he did a good job sticking to his defensive duties. The entire defensive unit did well to keep Chicago outside of the box and force them to take speculative shots from deep.
J.J. Koval – MF, 6.5: Koval did much better in this game, but still made a couple of mistakes on defense. He failed to track Joevin Jones’ run that opened up the San Jose defense for the first goal and he was also beat on the Eric Gehrig header that was denied by a great save from Bingham. Outside of that, he did combine well with Alashe to control the midfield, leading the team with five interceptions.
Fatai Alashe – MF, 7.5: Alashe was in the right spot at the right time for the goal. Nevertheless, he did a nice job of putting it into the net. Perhaps most impressive so far this season has been his defensive positioning — he is almost always in the right spot which is impressive for a rookie. He can get better in helping San Jose control the game on offense, however. He struggles to create triangles and help circulate the ball effectively. It’s a tough task, one which he should improve upon.
Innocent Emeghara – AML, 7: Innocent was the offensive focal point during open play. He did well to take on the two Chicago defenders and create openings for teammates. Chicago seemed to resort to fouling him as a way of slowing him down and from the free kicks San Jose was very dangerous. One concern is on defense he has a tendency to want to try to play his way out of trouble a bit too much, which can lead him to dwelling on the ball for too long.
Matias Perez Garcia – AMC, 8: Garcia was the creative force for San Jose. His delivery on set pieces was excellent and was the main source of scoring threats. He was also effective in helping on the defensive side of the ball. Overall a very good game.
Sanna Nyassi – AMR, 7: Nyassi had another consistent performance where he worked hard and combined well with Wynne to lock down a side of the field for San Jose. On offense he didn’t do much, but he did keep his game and passes simple. That was what San Jose needed when it was time to defend the lead.
Chris Wondolowski – ST, 6: A quiet game for the San Jose captain. He didn’t get great service, with San Jose more willing to defend in the second half to protect their lead. He did have one clear-cut chance where he was left all alone on a second half free kick, but the shot was blocked.
Shea Salinas – MF, 6.5: Came on in the 75th minute and provided some nice energy to a team that was tiring. He helped provide cover on the left flank and even created a chance on offense as the team looked to kill off the game.
Adam Jahn – ST, NR: Jahn had one half-chance on offense, but the ball got caught in his feet before he could get the shot off. Not involved in the action much beyond that.
Cordell Cato – MF, NR: Came on for the last five minutes. Didn’t make any mistakes.