Mar 9, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Minnesota United goalkeeper Vito Mannone (1) reaches high for the ball during the first half against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE, Calif. — After a week of guarded optimism following a close defeat the Saturday before, the San Jose Earthquakes were dominated by visiting Minnesota United 3-0 on a chilly evening in front of an announced crowd of 16,411 at Avaya Stadium.
Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra scored the first two goals for the Loons, with a Harold Cummings own-goal giving the visitors their third. It was the second straight road win for Minnesota (2-0-0, 6 points), both over Western Conference foes.
“Overall, we were well worthy winners,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said, “And I thought we were the better team from minute one.”
Chris Wondolowski, whose chase of the Major League Soccer all-time goal scoring record was again put on hold, had the best scoring chances of the night for the Quakes, hitting the post in the first half and sliding a shot barely wide in the second half. He was far from pleased with the effort.
“It’s devastating to lose,” Wondolowski said, “Embarrassing to lose 3-0 at home.
San Jose (0-0-2, 0 points) has now dropped two consecutive home games to open the season, a disappointing start to new head coach Matias Almeyda’s tenure. He felt he had a good gameplan going into the match, but the team was not able to execute it.
“Last week, we played a lot better soccer than this,” Almeyda said through a translator. “After looking back at the game, obviously, I am the one that is most responsible for this result.”
Loons centerback Ike Opara, who began his career with the Earthquakes back in 2010, signed with Minnesota in the offseason, and he is very encouraged with the fight the team showed for the second straight weekend on the road.
“Guys are prideful, and first and foremost, we want to keep clean sheets and do our best to limit opportunities,” said Opara. “That’s where our focus has been, and we believe we can reach our goals if we sustain stability in our defensive shape.”
Opara’s counterpart on the Quakes, Guram Kashia, was less than pleased with the result and said the loss was the responsibility of everyone on the field.
“We did not play well,” Kashia said. “Individually, we played really bad. … We failed as a team, and it’s still the beginning of the season, so we the players want to bounce back.
“It was not good enough, and I am disappointed with the performance.”
The Earthquakes started brightly and didn’t have to wait long to see Wondolowski get his first chance of the night. In the third minute, Cristian Espinoza delivered an enticing cross in front of goal that the captain chipped well over the bar. Wondo, playing as a lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, was the focal point of the offense most of the evening.
The Loons absorbed the pressure of San Jose’s man-marking scheme and bided their time to race ahead on the counterattack. They got their chance in the 10th minute, when Romain Metanire hit a long ball behind the Quakes’ two centerbacks, right into the path of Romario Ibarra. The forward had only Daniel Vega to beat, but the veteran goalkeeper repelled the Ecuadorian’s effort.
Vega pulled off a dramatic double save in the 27th minute that kept Minnesota off the scoreboard. First Romario Ibarra and then Quintero had unopposed shots on target. The Argentinean ‘keeper denied them both.
The Quakes were definitely chasing the game as the clock passed the half-hour mark, with Vega saving the hosts again on a low effort from Francisco Calvo that drew gasps from the crowd. They serenaded the ‘keeper with chants of “Vega!” in appreciation.
In the 36th minute, Opara initiated a scoring opportunity with a drive down the right flank before teeing up the ball for midfielder Jan Gregus at the top of the area. Gregus, with a wide-open channel through which to shoot, pulled his attempt off target.
Despite the dominance of the visitors, it was the Quakes that nearly entered intermission with a lead. In the 41st minute, Espinoza, this time operating from the left sideline, rocketed a cross into the area that Wondolowski flicked teasingly off the far post.
Minnesota got its much-deserved lead just after halftime, when a handball in the box — confirmed after a VAR review — by left back Marcos Lopez provided the Loons with a penalty kick. Quintero, catching Vega diving the wrong way, calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net in the 49th minute to make it 1-0.
Stunned at the turn of events, too often like they had been throughout the 2018 season, the Earthquakes gave up a second goal minutes later on a perfectly-executed counterattack by MNUFC following a failed corner kick by San Jose. It was Miguel Ibarra who claimed the goal, easily beating Vega with a far-post shot in the 52nd minute.
The Quakes made all three of their substitutions in the ensuing minutes, as Almeyda looked for a spark to get his side back in the game. First Tommy Thompson, then Danny Hoesen and Shea Salinas took the field, but to no avail.
Minnesota pushed its lead to 3-0 in the 76th minute, when a free kick delivery in the box was deflected by Harold Cummings and went past Vega at the far post, dealing a knockout blow to San Jose’s hopes of a comeback.
All that was left for the Loons was to run out the clock, and they did so with little trouble. Their defensive shape held through one Quakes attack after another. Wondolowski had a golden chance to get one back and tie Donovan’s record, but his 90th-minute shot dribbled wide of the post.
San Jose next faces the New York Red Bulls on the road in a nationally-televised game. They Quakes will need to regroup quickly in order to avoid a third straight defeat.