Aug 29, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Valeri Kazaishvili (11) celebrates with teammates after a goal against FC Dallas during the first half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes, behind two goals from Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili, defeated FC Dallas 4-3 Wednesday night in front of an announced 15,648 at Avaya Stadium to earn their first victory at home since the season opener nearly six months ago.
Chris Wondolowski scored the game-winning goal for the Quakes midway through the second half after Dallas, leaders of the Western Conference, had fought back twice to equalize. It was the captain’s eighth goal of the season and the 142nd of his career, moving him to within three of Landon Donovan’s all-time MLS record.
“It was great to get the goal,” Wondolowski said. “I am so proud to be the captain, to be with the guys out there fighting. It was a huge pleasure.”
Vako, who also added an assist on Wondo’s game-winner, was also instrumental in the Quakes last win, a 3-1 result at FC Dallas back in July, in which he also scored two goals and earned MLS Player of the Week honors.
“He’s so crafty with the ball,” Wondolowski said. “He’s so strong, and it’s hard to get the ball from him. That’s why he was able to get the bounces tonight. He did a great job, and had two great finishes as well.”
Wondolowski, who is now two goals away from extending his own record of consecutive seasons with double-digit goals scored to nine, has played off the bench the previous five games. Head coach Mikael Stahre decided, with another game looming this weekend, to start Wondo over Danny Hoesen, the Quakes’ go-to striker of late.
“Danny has been our top scorer this season, but we know that Wondo is always good,” Stahre said. “He’s always good for the team, good in the box and good defensively. It was hard to have him on the bench for a couple games.”
It was a decision that in no small part played a role in the win, as the veteran forward showed he could still make his mark on the field.
The game didn’t start off on a positive note for San Jose, however, as it didn’t take long for the visitors to strike. In just the eighth minute, a mistimed header from Shea Salinas allowed Michael Barrios free reign behind the defensive line. His cross into the box was clawed away by goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell, but the ball rolled invitingly to the top of the area for Maxi Urruti to slot home.
The Quakes answered right back, after FC Dallas committed its own defensive miscue. A give and go at the top of the area by Vako and Magnus Eriksson appeared to have been stopped, but Matt Hedges headed clearance ricocheted off the back of Maynor Figueroa and back to Vako. One touch later, he blasted the ball past goalkeeper Jimmy Mauer to level the game at 1-1.
Wondolowski nearly gave San Jose its first lead of the night in the 41st minute, as Vako delivered a perfect cross to the penalty spot, but the captain headed wide of the target.
Less than a minute later, Vako took matters into his own hands, dribbling into the heart of the FCD defense. A fortuitous deflection of the ball freed Vako to get in behind the defense with only Mauer to beat, and he made no mistake in sending the ball past the helpless ‘keeper.
Coming out of halftime, FC Dallas swapped out forward Tesho Akindele for Santiago Mosquera, and the move paid immediate dividends. After collecting a ball from Urruti and eluding Guram Kashia at the top of the area, Mosquera drove a shot the caromed off Tarbell’s leg and into the back of the net that tied the game at 2-2 in the 51st minute.
Instead of wilting, the Quakes regrouped, and within a few minutes regained the lead. Wondolowski playing the role of provider, set up Eriksson for a shot from distance that he curled expertly inside the far post to put the hosts back up 3-2.
The lead proved to be temporary as Dallas struck back in the 58th minute through Dominique Badji. The former Colorado forward, timing his run perfectly, snuck through the Quakes central defense and tapped home from short distance a pass across the box from Reggie Cannon.
No matter to the hosts, as a clever pass from Vako gave Wondolowski all the space he needed to drill home the Earthquakes’ fourth goal of the night. It was a vintage shot from the Quakes’ captain, and it marked the 40th game winning goal of his career, tied with Jeff Cunningham for second best in MLS history, one behind all-time leader Donovan.
“If he gets one chance, he’s going to score,” Eriksson said. “It was a great goal.”
The Earthquakes, bolstered by Wondo’s heroics, played smart defense the rest of the way. Nick Lima, in a moment that won’t make the scoresheet, denied FC Dallas an equalizer in the finals seconds with a very timely goalmouth clearance.
“It was an ‘Oh, shoot!’ moment,” Lima said. “As it came off my foot, I was saying in my head for the ball to go where I wanted it to. We got some good bounces today, and I am happy with that.”
The win snapped a home winless streak of 179 days, the longest in franchise history, so it was some relief that at the final whistle, the Quakes could look at the scoreboard and see the result in their favor.
“It’s huge,” Lima said. “Obviously, we don’t want to lose anywhere. It’s not fun for us, it’s not fun for the organization, it’s not fun for the fans especially. We are glad we could get a win at home, and we just need to keep doing it, and build off it as best we can, the rest of this season and the next.”