SAN JOSE, Calif. — Earth Day in the South Bay was all Earthquakes Saturday night, as San Jose celebrated a convincing 4-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City in front of an appreciative crowd of 15,777 at Avaya Stadium.
Danny Hoesen scored twice in the opening quarter-hour of the game, as the forward took his season total to three goals in three starts. Shea Salinas, the Quakes captain on the night, added a goal 10 seconds into the second half, with Magnus Eriksson stretching the lead to four at the one-hour mark.
“Kansas is proven to be one of the best teams in the league,” Hoesen said. “The coach told us before, he had a good feeling we were going to beat them, and we believed it.”
Felipe Gutierrez pulled one back for Sporting KC with a late penalty kick, but the Earthquakes were unfazed and cruised to a 4-1 win for their second home victory in as many games. For the visitors, who entered the night unbeaten in five games, it was their first loss in league play since the season opener.
“The chances we had, we didn’t score, and we didn’t defend very well as a team,” Sporting midfielder Gerso Fernandes said. “Everything just didn’t go well. It was a bad night for everybody, and we will just forget it and think about the next game.”
The hosts got the party started on a high note as Hoesen scored his first goal of the night after collecting a pinpoint long-ball from Anibal Godoy in the sixth minute and slotting home from close range.
“It was a good game today,” Godoy said. “We were able to do what the coach asked of us. We gained a lot of confidence right from the beginning, and we knew we had a good chance to win the game.”
The Dutch striker then scored his second in the 12th minute, when he managed to stay onside high up the field, running through on Jackson Yueill’s ball over the top of the defensive line. Hoesen’s goal was originally waved off by the sideline official, but a VAR review reversed the call and doubled the Quakes lead.
Sporting KC defender and captain Matt Besler was injured on the play and had to exit the game, replaced by Abdul Rwatubyaye. The 22-year-old Rwandan, signed in February, made his MLS debut in his first appearance of the season.
The Earthquakes continued to be the aggressors on and off the ball, looking more the side to score next in what was turning into a wide open affair. Cristian Espinoza tested goalkeeper Tim Melia from distance in the 18th minute, but his shot was comfortably saved, keeping the score 2-0.
Kansas City was thrown a lifeline in the 24th minute, when centerback Florian Jungwirth bundled over Gianluca Busio inside the area, but Krisztian Nemeth skied his penalty kick shot well into the upper seating bowl at Avaya Stadium.
Nemeth’s miss was the third straight penalty kick not converted by the Quakes’ opposition this season, as both the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo failed to put a spot kick past goalkeeper Daniel Vega in the previous two games. The last season in which San Jose benefited from three missed PKs was back in 1999.
“When you have that fighting spirit, you get results like tonight,” Jungwirth said. “I tried to put my share into the team pot, and I think it helped.”
The scoreboard remained at 2-0 to the home team going into halftime, but the Earthquakes did suffer a loss of sorts. After some extracurricular pushing by Godoy resulted in Gerso hitting the deck, the Panamanian midfielder was cautioned by referee Rubiel Vazquez. He will now miss San Jose’s next game, this Wednesday at the Seattle Sounders, due to yellow card accumulation.
San Jose set the tone for the second half on the kickoff, taking the ball forward on the restart instead of electing to pass the ball backwards. The strategy caught SKC off guard, and after Eriksson spread the ball wide for Salinas, the Quakes captain cut back inside and curled a beauty to the far post to take the score to 3-0.
“Confidence came with the team,” Salinas said. “We worked hard together. We frustrated them, and as they got frustrated, we grew more and more confident which made for a fun night.”
Eriksson added his name the scoresheet in the 61st minute with a fine finish at the top of the box. The Swede had attempted a through ball to Nick Lima, but it was deflected back to his feet, and he calmly shot past Melia to increase San Jose’s advantage to 4-0.
“Everybody was more on the same page and we knew our roles, who to cover, and the communication was better,” Lima said. “It was a lot better tonight.”
Kansas City earned another penalty kick in the 66th minute, when Jungwirth bowled over Nemeth in the box. This time, it was Gutierrez who took the spot kick, and he blasted it past Vega to give the visitors their first goal of the evening.
With the game safely in hand, head coach Matias Almeyda brought in his remaining subs, with Paul Marie making his MLS debut and Chris Wondolowski entering for Hoesen, the Quakes man of the match. Neither team threatened to add to the scoreline, and the game ended 4-1 to San Jose.
“Kansas is, with LAFC, one of the best teams in the league, in my opinion,” Jungwirth said. “If you let them play, you’ll be in trouble. They showed good approaches tonight, but we know, if we stay close to them defensively and not let them do want they want to do, we can harm them, and that is exactly what happened.”
The Earthquakes’ victory kicks off a week in which they will play the next two games on the road, against the Sounders midweek and at FC Dallas next Saturday. With two wins in their last three games, San Jose will hope their momentum carries to its first road points of the season.