SAN JOSE, Calif. — For over a decade, the San Jose Earthquakes have lived and died by the performances of their captain, Chris Wondolowski. On Saturday night, they thrived, as the Major League Soccer career goal scoring leader scored twice in an impressive 3-0 win over Orlando City.
The Quakes wasted no time getting on the scoresheet, as Magnus Eriksson scored in just the 3rd minute. Wondolowski, who had lamented the team’s lack of finishing in last weekend’s big win against the Vancouver Whitecaps, was clinical in front of the net against Orlando, netting twice before halftime. Daniel Vega and the defense did the rest, as the Earthquakes posted their seventh shutout of the season.
“It was nice to come out and really get a hold of the game and dictate it from there,” Wondolowski said. “I thought our whole defense played amazing. It was pretty cool to see.”
Wondolowski’s brace was the 23rd multi-goal game of this MLS career. He is heating up at the right time for San Jose, having now scored four goals in his last three starts.
“A lot of it has just been from our team play,” Wondolowski said. “We’ve been able to possess the ball in a dominant way in a sense where we have possession in their half. That opens it up and creates for myself and the others.”
The victory extended the Quakes unbeaten streak to twelve games (10-0-2) and pushed them into second place in a tight Western Conference playoffs chase. Saturday’s win also marked the first time San Jose has beaten Orlando City since they joined MLS. The Earthquakes and Lions previously played to two draws in the Florida club’s visits to the Bay Area.
Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda missed the game due to suspension — he’ll serve the third of a three-game suspension when the Quakes face Real Salt Lake on September 11 — but his coaching staff stepped up and had no issues managing matters. San Jose featured the same starting eleven that dominated Vancouver the week before, and everyone looked energetic from the opening whistle.
“I think the effort we put in is the base of the team, our companionship on the field and always fighting for a loose ball,” defender Marcos Lopez said. “And I think that marks the difference against any opponent.”
Jackson Yueill was the catalyst on the Quakes first goal of the evening at Avaya Stadium, threading a perfect pass to Eriksson at the top of the area. The Swede took a perfect touch into the area to push the ball beyond the Orlando City backline before nutmegging goalkeeper Brian Rowe for his sixth goal of the season.
Wondolowski doubled San Jose’s lead in the 20th minute with a perfectly timed run that saw him run onto Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili’s pass over the defensive line and into space with only Rowe to beat. The Quakes captain deftly chipped the ‘keeper for his 12th goal of the season.
Cristian Espinoza, who deserves serious consideration as the MLS Newcomer of the Year for his impact on the Earthquakes offense, collected his 12th assist of the season with a clever run to the endline before cutting the ball back to Wondolowski in open space. He made no mistake with the pass, slamming home a volley to take the Earthquakes lead to 3-0.
By intermission, the Earthquakes had bested Orlando by wide margins in shot attempts and corner kicks, and their advantage on the scoreboard was well deserved. The visitors could not match the intensity of the Quakes, and they looked more than happy to retreat and regroup in their locker room.
Orlando City head coach James O’Connor introduced two substitutes to start the second half, adding Tesho Akindele and Cristian Higuita in an effort to spark his team’s attack. The new faces did have a positive impact, as the Lions looked the better side at times, but the Quakes stayed solid on defense and kept their cool on both sides of the ball.
San Jose finally went to the bench as the game drifted into the last quarter hour, bringing in both summer signings Andres Rios and Carlos Fierro, as well as last season’s leading scorer Danny Hoesen. The introduction of the three attacking players showed that the Quakes were not content with their three goal lead.
The Earthquakes weren’t able to extend the lead, though they did dominate the closing minutes of the game, and the players celebrated a second straight victory in front of an appreciative home crowd of 17,323. The Quakes next head on the road to take on third place Real Salt Lake on September 11.