SAN JOSE, Calif. — Just as it looked like the San Jose Earthquakes were going to earn their third victory of the season, Los Angeles FC had other ideas.
After Amada Diomande equalized the score at three goals apiece in the 90th minute, canceling out a two-goal performance by Quakes’ captain Chris Wondolowski, rookie Joao Moutinho scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time to give LAFC a dramatic 4-3 victory in front of an announced 17,650 at Avaya Stadium.
“This was absolutely the hardest defeat in my MLS career, actually,” Earthquakes’ head coach Mikael Stahre said. “One minute left in the 90 and we are 3-2 up, then minutes later we are losing again, so for me, that was absolutely crazy.”
The loss marked the fourth in a row for the Earthquakes (2-9-3, 9 points), who haven’t managed to beat any other team in MLS than Minnesota United this season. For LAFC (7-4-3, 24 points), it was the expansion side’s fifth road victory of the year, best in the league.
“LA is a good team,” Wondolowski said. “Their record speaks for itself. A lot of credit to them, it showed their perseverance to come back and beat us. It was a tough one.”
It was a bittersweet evening for Wondolowski, whose two goals on the night took his career total to 138, seven behind Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 145. The striker also extended his own record for MLS teams scored upon, as LAFC proved to be the 24th victim of a Wondolowski goal, but it wouldn’t be enough to save the Quakes from another loss.
Jun 9, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes defender Yeferson Quintana (30) and Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande (99) argue in the game during the second half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
“Of course, we are struggling a lot and we need points,” Stahre said, “but look at the team tonight. With lots of energy and commitment, we looked like a team. I told them that after the game and I will tell them that tomorrow as well. The only thing we can do is keep it up and bring the energy to each other and prepare for the next game. The players, the owners and the fans deserve better than this.”
The night had gotten off to a good start, as the Quakes took an early lead when Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili scored in the 11th minute, his third goal of the season. The Georgian attacker, playing at the top of the diamond midfield formation, initiated the sequence with a pass to Danny Hoesen, which the Dutch striker exchanged with Jackson Yueill down the right sideline before clipping it back into the box for Vako to put away with a clever finish.
But the visitors struck back with a vengeance, as Adama Diomande, whose shot two minutes earlier was expertly blocked by defender Nick Lima, headed home from close range in the 15th minute. The equalizer came as a result of a poor clearance from Kevin Partida, who was making his MLS debut after signing a season-long loan earlier the day.
LAFC took the lead in the 19th minute through a familiar face to Earthquakes’ fans. After Mark-Anthony Kaye had his long range shot deflected by Jimmy Ockford, San Jose native Steven Beitashour rushed into space behind the defense and tapped the ball past Andrew Tarbell to give LAFC its first lead of the evening.
By halftime, Los Angeles looked like they were in full control of the game, dominating the Quakes in possession 60.1 percent to 39.9 percent. It was not the assertive effort the home side needed as they struggled to contain the passing game of LAFC.
Following the intermission, LAFC picked up right where they left off, almost toying with the Earthquakes with a series of clever passes in and around the center circle. Florian Jungwirth, who has all season expressed concern that the Quakes were too soft in midfield, put in a crunching tackle on Kaye, earning a talking to from referee Hilario Grajeda.
The show of force did the trick, however, as San Jose came to life in the ensuing minutes. Wondolowski nearly equalized in the 51st minute with a backheel shot attempt that required a diving save from goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The Quakes’ captain exacted a measure of revenge one minute later as he lobbed the ‘keeper following a breakaway run behind the LAFC defense.
And Wondolowski wasn’t finished, as his hustle play in the 63rd minute put the Quakes back on top. After a soft back pass from Joao Moutinho forced Miller to take a touch out of the area, Wondolowski, stripped the goalkeeper of the ball and used his left foot to score his second goal of the night and fourth of the season.
The two goal performance was the first multi-goal game for Wondolowski since scoring a brace against the Portland Timbers on May 6 last season. With the Quakes leading 3-2, he was subbed off for Fatai Alashe in the 72nd minute, as a stomach illness forced him from the game.
“That was the hardest part for myself was having to come off,” Wondolowski said. “It wasn’t a good situation, and I am bummed about that because I love scoring goals more than many people here. …I was feeling a little under the weather, and after the third time it came up, I decided it would be better if I was not out there.”
Without Wondolowski on the field, the momentum in the game changed, as LAFC would not go down quietly. They survived the host’s attempts to ice the game, and in the 90th minute, following a loose ball scramble in the box, they found an equalizer. A floated cross to the far post was knocked down and sent past Tarbell, where Diomande was there to stab the ball into the back of the net and knot the game at 3-3.
Then, just after Partida was shown a second yellow card and ejected from the game, LAFC found the game winner. Latif Blessing, who drew the foul on Partida, made a cross into the box from the right corner that fell perfectly for Moutinho to shoot home and send the visiting bench into pandemonium.
The Earthquakes would not get their chance at a comeback goal of their own, as Grajeda blew the whistle on the game on the ensuing kickoff, sending the shocked home crowd home in disbelief.
“To a man, we still have belief,” Wondolowski said. “The effort was there today, but if that is gone on a consistent basis, that is when the pointing of fingers will go on. Right now, it is just accountability right now, we are trying to hold each other accountable and to the best of our abilities, and we need to get wins in any way possible.”
The Quakes won’t have long to dwell on their latest defeat, as they return to action on Wednesday when they host the New England Revolution.