Apr 14, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren (24) and San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Anibal Godoy (20) battle for possession in the first half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A back-and-forth game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Houston Dynamo finished in a 2-2 draw in front of an announced 17,822 at Avaya Stadium Saturday night.
The Earthquakes (1-2-2, 5 points) took a one-goal lead in the first half through Designated Player Magnus Eriksson, but the Dynamo (1-2-2, 5 points) struck for two second-half goals courtesy of Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas to take a 2-1 lead.
Jahmir Hyka, making his first appearance of the season as a late sub, drew the Quakes level with a clinical strike, and the game ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
“We talked about controlling the game better, keeping the ball better, and also finding a balance between playing between the lines,” San Jose head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We made some changes and were a little bit better at the end. It was an important goal by Hyka, but we are very disappointed to play 2-2 at home. We have to win these types of games, that’s for sure.”
For the Dynamo, it was also a game that left the team angry with the end result, as a dominating performance for most of the night and a strong second half comeback failed to net the team a coveted road win.
“Definitely,” Houston head coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “That is why it’s a little bit of frustration with all of us. The locker room is quiet and sad because today, we know we worked for the three points, we had the three points, and we lost the opportunity. This is a lesson to us to close the games better.”
The big news of the evening came well before kickoff, as Stahre moved Chris Wondolowski to the bench. The Quakes captain started 56 consecutive games going into the evening, so it was a shocking change to see Wondolowski on the sideline at the opening whistle.
“It was a really hard decision,” Stahre said. “We talked about it within the coaching staff and decided to play with only one striker and add another midfielder.”
Wondolowski didn’t complain about being dropped to bench, electing instead to focus on how he can contribute in a lineup that is becoming more focused on midfielders.
“It’s one of those things,” Wondolowski said. “It’a a part of the game. We wanted to make a tactical change and add another guy in the midfield and try to possess it. Coach talked to me about that. It’s the role he asked me to play and going forward, I’ll try to take that the best I can.”
On the heels of a three-game winless streak, Stahre saw fit to adjust the formation to more of a 4-3-3, with midfielders Fatai Alashe and Jackson Yueill getting their first starts of the season. It was a lineup designed to command the ball in the center of the park and keep the Dynamo from enjoying too much possession.
The Earthquakes’ new-look formation paid dividends in the 26th minute, when Magnus Eriksson drove a low shot from 20 yards past Houston goalkeeper Chris Seitz. Yueill, who took a pass from Danny Hoesen and turned sublimely in the box, teed up the Swedish striker with a pinpoint pass to the top of the arc.
The visitors equalized early in the second half when a defensive miscue by Yeferson Quintana gifted Alberth Elis a shot in the area that Anibal Godoy did well to deflect. Unfortunately, Tomas Martinez pounced on the ball and struck a shot past Andrew Tarbell and off Quintana’s leg.
Houston scored its second goal of the night in classic fashion: Elis outran Nick Lima for a pass wide on the right side of the field before sending a hard cross through the box for Manotas — just ahead of Quintana’s sliding defensive effort — to redirect home from close range.
Wondolowski and Jahmir Hyka entered soon after, and the Earthquakes searched for a way back into the game. Forward Quincy Amarikwa was the last substitution for San Jose, as the team went for broke over the last 15 minutes.
Stahre’s changes worked. Hyka scored in the 85th minute to pull the Earthquakes level with the Dynamo, and Amarikwa provided the assist on the well-hit shot. The visitors were left stunned by the Albanian’s game tying goal.
“It’s not easy when you are all the time on the bench,” Hyka said, “but like a professional, you have to keep working and wait for your chance. When the chance is there, you have to try your best. Today was my chance, and I scored the goal and helped the team.”
San Jose stormed forward in attack as the team looked for a game-winning goal, but instead the hosts settled for a disappointing draw. For the third straight game, the Quakes had taken a one goal advantage into the locker room at intermission, only to surrender the lead in the second half. It is a trend that Wondolowski knows is not sustainable in the long run.
“What I’m most concerned about is that in the last three games we have had the lead at halftime and come away with only two points,” Wondolowski said, “and two of those were home games. By far that is not good enough, but it’s a fixable and those are things we can all work on, but that is our biggest concern right now, giving up those leads.”
The Earthquakes head on the road for their next two games, at Orlando City and the Columbus Crew, making for an even tougher task ahead to break their four game winless streak, given San Jose’s struggles on the road for the past two-plus seasons.
“Now we have to win games, that is for sure,” Stahre said. “Luckily we scored the second one, and maybe that point will be important down the road.”