SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes entered Wednesday night knowing a much needed victory would do wonders to their Major League Soccer playoffs hopes, but the Philadelphia Union had other ideas, overturning a one goal deficit to win 2-1.
Jackson Yueill gave the Quakes (13-14-5, 44 points) a first half lead, but the Union (16-9-7, 55 points) never gave up, with Alejandro Bedoya and Kacper Przybylko scoring in the last 20 minutes to earn Philly all three points on the night.
“I’m proud of the group because of the character we showed and the resilience to comeback,” Bedoya said. “In prior years, this team would have squandered this game. … It’s all about character, and a result like this builds on that character and it gives us a lot of motivation.”
San Jose had two crucial calls go against them due to VAR reviews, with an early second half goal waved off for offside and a late penalty kick call overturned with the hosts looking for an equalizer.
“Certainly the emotions from the stadium, the emotions from them changed very quickly,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “You want them to get these calls right. Certainly they went against San Jose tonight and the close ones, I’d say, went our way. It’s a tough situation for them, but it’s a big three points for us.”
The Earthquakes players and coaches were not made available to the media after the game, and the locker room was closed to interviews. The 2-1 loss was San Jose’s first at Avaya Stadium since March 30, snapping the team’s 12-game home unbeaten streak.
Both sides started the game a little tight, with neither defense ready to surrender an opening goal. The Quakes were missing Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoze due to suspension, and the offense sorely missed their influence.
The breakthrough came in the 35th minute, as Magnus Eriksson delivered a scything pass into the area that Danny Hoesen turned and took to the endline. The striker had the wherewithal to spy Yueill making a late run into the box, and he cut the ball back for an easy tap in for the midfielder. It was Yueill’s third goal of the season, and gave the Earthquakes a big lift both on and off the field.
The goal elicited a roar from the appreciative Avaya Stadium crowd, and the San Jose Ultras, including Wondolowski standing and cheering in the front row, tore off their shirts in celebration.
The Quakes nearly doubled the lead in the 42nd minute, as Carlos Fierro got behind the Union defense with only Andre Blake to beat, but the goalkeeper was up to the challenge and denied Fierro his first MLS goal.
The Union starting to find their footing as the half entered stoppage time, with Marco Fabian striking a ball that required Daniel Vega to be alert in goal, but it was a close as the visitors would come to finding the back of the net, and the Earthquakes entered the locker rooms up 1-0.
“The first half was a little bit sloppy,” Bedoya said, “but there were a lot of chances in transition that we know were going to be able to get. … At halftime, we let off some steam and regrouped , and said we are a lot better than them.”
San Jose retook the field with a vengeance, controlling the ball from the kickoff and scoring what appeared to be a spectacular goal off the foot of Eriksson less than a minute into the second half. Instead, after a VAR review, the goal was waved off as Hoesen was adjudged to be offside during the buildup.
“I’ve got to say, that second goal was that was brought back, that changed a lot,” Bedoya said. “It could have completely taken the air out of the game for us.”
The teams battled back and forth from that point, but it was Bedoya who next put himself on the score sheet with a tidy effort inside the area in the 70th minute. After wrong-footing a Quakes defender with a clever cut, the Union captain leveled the score with a low shot to the far corner, away from the reach of the diving Vega.
Philadelphia rode its momentum to another goal six minutes later, as an uncontested cross from Jamiro Monteiro floated just over the head of defender Guram Kashia and right to Przybylko, who emphatically headed the ball into the back of the net from close range.
“I’m proud of the effort. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but that’s the way it is sometimes,” Bedoya said. “You have to have grit, and you saw that on the second goal. It was a quality goal.”
The Quakes looked shocked at the turn of events and were forced to take chances on offense to get back into the game. They seemed to have been thrown a lifeline in the 81st minute when Andy Rios was fouled in the box by centerback Aurelien Collin, but another VAR call went against the Quakes, as referee Baldomero Toledo viewed the video replay and reversed his initial decision to award a penalty kick.
“I believed I saw Collin make strong contact with Rios’ lower body,” Toledo said in answering a pool reporter’s question. “Upon review, the replay showed that the contact was incidental and did not warrant the awarding of a foul.”
A restless crowd of 16,652 voiced its displeasure, and the Earthquakes tried to quickly regroup. They never recovered, and even over seven minutes of added time, they couldn’t find an equalizer.
The loss dropped San Jose into eighth place in the Western Conference, one spot below the qualifying positions. The Quakes still are in control of their postseason, however, as two wins in their two remaining games will earn them their first playoffs appearance since 2017.