MINNEAPOLIS – A pair of penalty-kick goals from Magnus Eriksson and Chris Wondolowski, plus a back-post finish from Danny Hoesen carried the San Jose Earthquakes (2-5-2, 8 points) to a 3-1 win over host Minnesota United (4-7-0, 12 points). Loons standout Christian Ramirez scored the game’s most impressive goal in a losing effort.
The Quakes snapped a seven-game winless streak with the victory, having previously failed to record three points since playing Minnesota at Avaya Stadium March 4.
“It’s something you’ve probably heard me say a million times, that goals change games,” MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath said. “Every time we got some momentum in the game, and every time I thought that we were more likely to go and get the next goal, we make a bad decision, a poor choice, it winds up in the back of the net.
“Have they really had to work very hard for any of their goals? The answer to that would be no.”
Things got started quickly, with the Quakes taking the game’s first lead.
Winger Magnus Eriksson found himself one-on-one with Loons fullback Jérôme Thiesson on the break. Thiesson left a trailing foot out as Eriksson cut back outside and wound up conceding a penalty. Eriksson converted the ensuing penalty kick, and San Jose led in the second minute.
“I think we came out good, we obviously scored a goal after just two minutes. I think we controlled the first 25 minutes in a good way, without creating good chances,” San Jose coach Mikael Stahre said. “I think we were really lucky it was just 1-1 going into halftime. After some adjustments, and a slap on the hand, we started the second–half much better.
“It was a really important victory for us, for sure. Our performance was so-so. I think our performance against Portland was better, but to steal a victory at this point is the most important thing.”
Minnesota’s 26th-minute equalizer was equal parts gift, vision, and craft.
May 12, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Francisco Calvo (5) defends San Jose Earthquakes forward Magnus Eriksson (7) in the first half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Shea Salinas, under pressure from Miguel Ibarra, played the ball back to his centerback, Florian Jungwirth — or at least that was Salinas’ intent. Not looking to see if the passing lane was clear, Salinas ended up rolling the ball into Ramirez’s path.
“I took a look over my left shoulder,” Ramirez said. “The goalie was between the six and the 18, so I knew he was out of position.”
Hitting Salinas’ miscue on the first touch, Ramirez pivoted to curl the ball over a helpless Andrew Tarbell and inside the far post.
The goal brought the announced home crowd of 19,721 to life and the Loons seemed to respond to the energy. Heath could be seen on the touchline urging his side to press San Jose in its own half, and the pressure paid off with the Loons winning possession high up the field on a number of occasions.
“I was worried after 10 minutes thinking the lads look very leggy, maybe they’ve taken too much out of them,” said Heath. “But after that, they rallied terrific. If you look at the 90 minutes, we can’t complain about the energy levels and what we tried to do.”
With momentum on its side, Minnesota threw players forward in search of a go-head goal. After several half chances, it looked like it would arrive in the 41st minute.
Quintero received the ball with time to turn and created his own space, carving his way to the top of the 18 on the dribble. The Loons’ dangerman chipped the ball onto the end of a back-post run by Ramirez, putting the forward in one-on-one with Tarbell.
Ramirez’s shot had Tarbell beaten high, but made the crossbar ring instead of finding the goal.
After the restart, Minnesota picked up where it left off and had the majority of the run of play. But the Loons were unable to convert intent into results.
In the 67th minute, San Jose seized upon a defensive lapse to retake the lead. Shielding a bouncing ball in the penalty area, second-half substitute and Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski was bracketed by Loons captain Francisco Calvo and Ibson. Neither put in a challenge, allowing Wondolowski to track the bouncing ball as it approached the endline before putting in a cross.
Danny Hoesen was waiting at the back post to volley the ball down to the turf and into the back of the net. It was Hoesen’s fourth goal in four games against MNUFC.
“We had two opportunities to clear it, and we won’t, and we get punished again.” Heath said.
After the match, Calvo stated he thought the ball was out.
“To score a goal at that point was really important. The goal gave us a little bit more confidence, actually,” Stahre said. “We were in really big trouble at the end of the first half.”
Things were made worse for the home side seven minutes later.
Sliding to block a shot from Hoesen at the top of the 18-yard box, Calvo’s arm caught the forward’s effort. The centerback’s limb wasn’t raised above his shoulder, but video review confirmed the handball impeded Hoesen’s shot and a penalty was awarded.
Wondolowski converted from the spot and the Quakes led by two.
The Loons pushed forward in search of a goal, but were unable to produce the quality of scoring chances they did towards the end of the first half. A whopping seven minutes of added time did nothing to alter the scoreline further.
The postgame frustration was palpable in Minnesota’s locker room. It marked the first time this season — excluding its home game against Atlanta when Minnesota played with a man advantage for 50 minutes — that Minnesota outshot its opponent.
“We need to stick together as a group — as a team,” Calvo said. “It’s a big chance for the media to talk bad things about the team, now.
“If you want to point at me, point at me. I’ve been playing as a pro eight years — I know what this pressure is.”
Both Calvo and Heath mentioned the performance of Victor Rivas, making his debut as an MLS referee. Heath said he’d avoided talking about referees so far this season but would be reaching out to the Professional Referee Organization’s general manager, Howard Webb.
The Loons’ complaints focused on consistency and a second-half foul called on Calvo,who knocked heads with Jungwirth as the two contested a ball in the air.
“I win the ball and then he called a foul on me. I don’t know how,” Calvo said.
Spirits were higher among the Quakes.
“The victory is the most important thing,” Stahre said. “It’s been almost more than two months without a victory. It gave us confidence and now we’re back on track. I’m really pleased and glad for the club and players.”
Said Hoesen: “It was a lot of hard work. We conceded a goal by mistake, but I also have to say we had an incredible finish. You see that we’re a team in trouble and that our confidence goes down a little bit, but I thought the fighting and team spirit today was excellent. I think that’s why we won the game.”