SAN JOSE, Calif. — Players trickled into the Avaya Stadium dressing room, prepared for another routine day of training ahead of this weekend’s game against New York City FC, when the video started to circulate, stopping each one in his tracks.
Half a world away, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili had just scored a wonder-goal for the Georgian national team in a 2-0 friendly win against Estonia. All over social media people were raving about the highlight. Even Vako’s Quakes’ teammates were impressed with the jaw-dropping effort.
OH. MY. GOODNESS. 😱😱😱
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) March 27, 2018
“It was ridiculous,” forward Danny Hoesen told Pro Soccer USA. “It was a very nice goal. That’s what he can do, and I’m not surprised to see him score a great goal like that.”
Hoesen, who along with Vako is the team’s co-leader in goals scored this season with two, can’t wait for the Georgian’s return to San Jose later this week, especially with a talented NYCFC team coming to town. The Dutch striker is hoping Vako can create a few more highlight reel goals for the Earthquakes as well.
“That would be nice,” Hoesen continued. “For the national team, he plays more central, but we know he can do it here. If we find him at the right times, I am sure he is going to show us some similar quality.”
Vako signed with the Quakes last summer as a Designated Player. He’s made only 15 appearances, 10 of them starts. He has seven goals and four assists in that time, which is good for 1.03 points per 90 minutes played — a better scoring rate in his first 15 games in Major League Soccer than such recent luminaries as Miguel Almiron, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Ignacio Piatti. Vako has two assists to go with his two goals this season, numbers Hoesen finds right in line with the midfielder’s quality.
“It’s very good what he’s accomplished so far,” Hoesen said. “He is a confident guy, he doesn’t lose many balls, and he is strong with his legs. Sometimes I get a little frustrated because when he is playing well, we should be feeding him all the time. He can create something even when the game is dead and nothing is happening.”
Vako’s stunning goal this week was his second in two games for Georgia. On Saturday, he scored from the spot in a convincing 4-0 win against Lithuania. Since making his international debut back in 2014, the attacking midfielder has eight goals in 31 appearances. None impressed more than his curling effort against Estonia.
“It was an okay goal,” Earthquakes head coach Mikael Stahre told Pro Soccer USA, clearly deadpanning his delivery.
Vako has been employed primarily as a left-sided midfielder for San Jose, though he likes to cut in to play the ball with his dominant right foot. This inverted-winger tactical setup has provided Vako with plenty of scoring opportunities already this season, but his coach admits no matter what instructions he gives his players, they only work when those players have the talent to match.
“You can talk all you want about structure, about ideas, about having a game plan, but you still must have the players that can execute that. That’s quite important,” Stahre said. “He’s a good player. He can take on other players one-on-one. He can shoot and combine with his teammates. It’s hard for opponents to defend against him.”
Hoesen sees the talent first-hand, both in training and as the starting forward in the Earthquakes 4-2-2-2 formation. He’s has implored Vako on numerous occasions to reach his full potential. Vako is certainly not a slouch on the field — he is very active across the midfield line — but Hoesen knows just how critical his involvement in the attacking half is to the team’s success.
“I always talk to him and say to get inside, get on the ball, because that is going to be make our lives easier as well,” Hoesen said. “He we keep working to find him in the right spaces, then that is going to help us all play better as well.”
Stahre applauded Vako’s on-field effort as well, noting that he has an incredible soccer IQ and reads the game so well. He will return to San Jose on Wednesday, just a couple days before the Quakes tilt against NYCFC, but that doesn’t worry the coach too much. He is confident that his star midfielder will be ready to create another masterpiece for the Black and Blue.
“Vako is like an artist,” Stahre said. “And like an artist can produce nice paintings, Vako can score a goal like he did today. It was a really impressive goal.”