Patience, Persistence, Keys to Quakes' Season

SAN JOSE – What goes up comes down. Nothing could be more true for the San Jose Earthquakes during the month of May. Two and a half weeks ago, they were on top of the western conference standings with 9 points. They were momentarily alone, and then in a tie for first place. Now, 17 days and 3 straight losses later, they cling to the seven spot and could be pushed down one more, and below the playoff qualifying line, if Austin prevails over Nashville tonight.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Seattle Sounders, who were responsible for the Earthquakes' first loss, and who then tied them with 9 points on May 6, are now alone in first place with 17 points after a 1-1 tie versus Atlanta today.

For San Jose, the next three matches are on the road. The first match is the LA leg of the Cali Clasico versus the LA Galaxy on May 29. After a much needed pause to regroup, they travel to Austin to compete on June 19. Then they head to Orlando for a match just three days later on June 22. Then they return home to play the LA Galaxy once again, this time at home at PayPal Park. However, by the time they get home, they very well could be licking the wounds of a 6-match skid, and would surely be flirting with last place in the west.

After a cobweb-wiping wake up on the road in Houston, the Quakes turned red hot and won three straight while outscoring their opponents 9-3. That last win came courtesy of MLS's all-time greatest player, Chris Wondolowski, coming off the bench cold for the last 10 minutes of regulation play and finding just the right spot to score two goals in a six minute span. Wondo is the Quakes' most valuable player, their moral leader and their captain. He is priceless.

Since that performance, the Quakes have lost three straight and have been outscored by their opponents 6-1! That's right, the once red hot Earthquakes have only scored one goal in the past three matches. What is going on? Is it talent? Is it fatigue? Is it coaching, management or ownership? Is it just bad luck? To what should the 180 degree reversal of outcomes be attributed?

"When we won, we played fast and hard, we were aggressive and over the top. We played north-south and we made shots on goal," said one north end fan who asked not to be named. "This tiqui-taca does not work," he continued, "our talent doesn't do short passing and possession well. They punch you in the mouth and find the back of the net." Tiqui-taca refers to the classic Spanish style that involves short passing, possession, and precision channel work on the pitch.

Versus Sporting Kansas City last night, Cade Cowell was quiet, Andy Rios was ineffective, and Espinoza worked under caution after an early yellow card. Chofis was hot early, and set the tone with an early goal to send the Quakes up 1-0 (4'), but it was all Sporting KC from there. While the equalizer came soon thereafter (15'), Kansas City didn't go ahead until the second half (60' and 75').

According to another observer, the Quakes looked tired. There were quite a few hands on hips during official pauses. Perhaps it really is that simple and the team was just tired last night, but that may not explain three losses in a row, and it certainly won't explain another three. The Quakes need to turn this around.

What about the GOAT, the moral leader and captain; where's Wondo? He came on late, once again, in an apparent goal-chasing move that left a seemingly ineffective Andy Rios in while taking midfielder Tommy Thompson out. Thompson's exit clearly weakened the Quakes' transition defense, and absolutely contributed to KC's ability to move down field relatively unchallenged.

That raises the question, is there something amiss with coaching? Another north end fan, who also wished to remain nameless, said "(Keeper) JT (Marcinkowski) came off his line again and it cost him." Surely if there's an issue with this, it can be corrected. San Jose has good keepers, and has a solid position coach working the goal.

The general lineup seems to more of a sore spot with many though. Exiting PayPal Park after the match, many fans could be heard asking why Chris Wondolowski and Shea Salinas weren't starting. People asked why Brazilian international defender Judson wasn't in the lineup. Some suggested the short week and three match stretch was to blame, but others perhaps fairly pointed out that these are professional athletes in the best shape and condition of their lives. They can handle it.

It is never easy to lose. It is never easy to sink in the standings. It is never easy to fall below the line. However, fans may be better off demonstrating some patience. The season is young. There's a long way to go. While point deficits are difficult to make up, the opportunity to remain above the line is not at all lost. If the Quakes can split the record on the road by going even 1-1-1, they'' return home with 13 points and enter the second leg of the Clasico with a chance to finish exactly where Seattle is right now.

They say patience is a virtue, and while Quakes fans have been waiting a long time for a solid winning season, let alone a new star on the kit, it's too early to let the frustration and concern over a few losses derail the focus and disrupt the mission. Remember, Earthquakes never say die. When in doubt, look to the GOAT, look to the moral leader; what would Wondo do? Odds favor him doing what he has always done: practice well, be ready, and make a difference if and when the opportunity presents itself. Indeed, patience and persistence will keep the roller coaster on the rails. There's a long season ahead.

San Jose travels to Los Angeles to face the LA Galaxy on Saturday, May 29 at 4:00 PM Pacific, and returns home to face the Galaxy again on June 26 at 7:00 PM Pacific.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and the San Jose Earthquakes, since 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2021 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Earthquakes Never Say Die

SAN JOSE - Matias Almeyda is back, and so are the members of a San Jose Earthquakes squad last seen showing signs of brilliance during the 2020 MLS is Back tournament, and then backing that up with a regular season remainder where they posted a less than brilliant 6-9-4 record. There were definite signs of improvement, and despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there was plenty to be optimistic about heading into 2021.

And so it happened, having last competed in a 3-3 tie that led to a shootout with Sporting KC that ended with Kansas City taking the points, the Earthquakes began 2021 with all the speed and strength fans witnessed the emergence of in 2020. First with a 6-1 thrashing of USL Championship side Sacramento Republic FC on April 2, Then a 3-2 defeat of neighboring Oakland Roots SC on April 9, they entered MLS play on the road.

The first match vs the Houston Dynamo on April 16 ended in a 2-1 loss that really could have swung the other way but for a few calls, a few no-calls, and an errant shot on goal. The Quakes wiped away the cobwebs and got serious. On April 24, the Quakes were fast, physical and dominant in a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas accompanied by a red card (89') for the great Chris Wondolowski. Taking one for the team, setting the tone for the season, Wondo's 'Never Say Die' style is not only a sight to behold, it's a mantra and an energy to be absorbed.

And absorbed it was. The Quakes hosted DC United on May 1 in what can only be characterized as the most electrifying punch-in-the-throat power flex ever to occur on the club's home pitch. PayPal Park, formerly Earthquakes Stadium, previously known as Avaya Stadium, is where home is, and last Saturday's sabre rattle started early.

La Chofis got things going with a quick strike in the first minute of play that sent everyone erupting in cheers. It was his first MLS goal. With limited fans on hand, both the Ultras and Faultline supporters groups forced echoes off the seatbacks that filled the air. Who is Chofis, you might ask. For those who don't know, he's #9, an outstanding attacking midfielder/winger from Torreon, Mexico. His full name is Javier Eduardo Lopez Ramirez. Statistics sheets will often cite E. Lopez. Make no mistake, he is every bit the nickname earned while at Chivas de Guadalajara, he is fantastic, and he is La Chofis.

With heads spinning at how quickly the Quakes got on the board, the team played an up tempo aggressive style with as much athleticism from a backline coming up as from a frontline dropping back. It was indeed all hands at all levels across the pitch, and the Earthquakes were in clear control. A rocket from 17 year old phenom Cade Cowell (26') burned a hole through the air and lit up the back of the net. He wasn't done there. Cowell played strong, fast and physical all night, and he didn't just stay forward. He ran the full pitch and played defense as well as any forward winger in the game. Cade's footsteps literally sent vibrations across the line and to the north end wall. He is 100% Earthquake, and he embodies the Never Say Die spirit.

Keeper JT Marcinkowski played brilliantly in goal managing 18 shots, 7 of which were on target. Add nearly a half dozen set plays off the corner alone, and DCU kept him busy. A lone goal by Costa Rican international defender Jose Vazquez (31') quickly reminded the Quakes that DC was not to be blown off, but that's where it ended. From there, it was all Quakes. Not only did they control the ball and wear down the clock, midfielder Jackson Yueill added two goals (43', 85') to seal the outcome.

Not to be forgotten, center back Florian Jungwirth. Playing from back to front, and sporting the longest hair on the pitch, Jungwirth displays a raw on-the-edge energy unparalleled in backline play. With every step, he reminds opponents that he will not be beaten. His goal line save in the second half kept the match at 3-1 and all but ensured the Quakes mantra, Never Say Die.

San Jose finished the night with a dominant 4-1 statement supported by the two stars on their kit: this club is for real, and these men want the cup. It's early, and a lot can happen, but even with Wondo out due to his red card the week before, every member of the club embraced and embodied equal energy and passion. The fight is real, and the San Jose Earthquakes will Never Say Die.

The Earthquakes compete on the road on Friday, May 7 at Real Salt Lake. That match kicks off at 6:30pm PST. The club returns home to PayPal Park on Wednesday, May 12 to host the Seattle Sounders. That kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm PST.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, including professional soccer and the San Jose Earthquakes since 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2021 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Black and Blue and Powering Through

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Earthquakes are currently the hottest team in Major League Soccer. Head Coach Matias Almeyda may very well be the MLS coach of the year. If there’s an award for best GM, it must go to Quakes General Manager Jesse Firoranelli. His masterfully orchestrated turnaround isn’t even complete, yet the results are undeniable. He’s building a cup contender. On the pitch, Chris Wondolowski extends his league scoring record nearly every match and currently has 153 lifetime MLS goals. Vako is on fire, Eriksson is playing his best game. Former Liga MX and CONCACAF Champions League Chivas de Guadalajara star winger Carlos Fierro has joined the team. The Quakes have acquired Argentine Primera Division champion forward Andres Rios from Racing Club perhaps in anticipation of a playoff run. If that name sounds familiar, think River Plate and Wisla Krakow. Rios has played all over the world. Power rankings have the Quakes in second on MLSsoccer.com and third on ESPN. The team hasn’t lost at home since the month of March. Knock on wood!

And wait, playoffs? There’s a lot of soccer to be played. MLS has only just completed the All-Star break. However, the San Jose Earthquakes are pushing toward the top of the western division led by the only team ahead of them in the power rankings: LAFC, and only slightly edged out by the last team to have joined the western division, Minnesota United. There’s a fair gap between #1 and #2, and then there’s #3. In fact, the Quakes’ worst loss this season was at home to #1 LAFC. According to Quakes fans, that score should never be mentioned again. Have things changed enough to make things more competitive when the Quakes visit LAFC at Banc of California Stadium on August 21? That remains to be seen. However, the Quakes beat the LA Galaxy handily both up north and down south, and the Galaxy crushed LAFC recently. That may suggest the Quakes have a chance, especially with the recent roster additions. Will that be enough to claim first place in the division? Probably not. LAFC currently enjoys a comfortable lead. However, the Quakes are currently tied with #2 Minnesota, and the #4 Seattle Sounders.

Having won four straight and being unbeaten at home over the past ten matches, San Jose has momentum on their side. Two weeks ago, after beating the Colorado Rapids at Avaya Stadium, Matias Almeyda said, “we were able to take the advantage through combinations and control;” but, “we need to keep improving.” There’s no question his system is working, and the players are responding well. The team continues to improve every week, thus confirming Almeyda’s belief that they can be even better. The players believe it too. Quakes defender Tommy Thompson said, “It's been amazing to be a part of this and I think we're just getting started.” Quakes midfielder Shea Salinas echoed similar sentiments. He said, “Our staff seemed to always know that we were going to turn this around. It just took us to start believing it.” Confidence is priceless.

The newest member of the Earthquakes, forward Andres Rios, also knows Matias Almeyda and his system. Rios said, “Matias likes for his players to pressure, to play and not let their guard down, and that's important for the team that is approaching the final stretch of the season where those qualities mark the difference.” The key to the Earthquakes’ continued success is a perfect blend of confidence and focus. From the office to the locker room, there’s no question everyone in the organization is committed to doing everything it takes to succeed.

The Earthquakes tied the Columbus Crew on Saturday, August 3 at Avaya Stadium. Despite Magnus Eriksson’s penalty pick score to go up 1-0 before the half, the Crew’s Gyasi Zardes equalized during the second half and neither team scored again. The draw represented a valuable learning lesson for the Quakes. “We know we have to keep going on this path,” said Almeyda. He knows there’s more work to be done, and so do the players. While it’s always great to win, and to earn three points, especially at home, the Quakes were aggressive. They never let up. They never lost focus. “Things don’t always go your way,” said Quakes defender Tommy Thompson. All there is to do is move on to the next match, and by all accounts the Quakes were fired up and ready to get back on the pitch mere minutes after the end of the match.

The Earthquakes now begin a 3-match road trip. They face the Colorado on the road on Saturday, August 10 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Bay Area, KNBR 1050 and KZSF 1370. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Pacific time.

The Earthquakes continue their 11-day road series by challenging Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, August 17, and LAFC on Wednesday, August 21. The club returns home to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, August 24 at Avaya Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific time. Fans interested in tickets can find them through the Earthquakes website.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and the San Jose Earthquakes, since 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2019 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Wondolowski Records Record Haul

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Just three weeks ago, the San Jose Earthquakes inched above the red line into seventh place in Major League Soccer’s western division with a 1-0 victory over the league’s newest member, FC Cincinnati. Forward Danny Hoesen was the starter, and forward Chris Wondolowski, one of the greatest players in MLS history, appeared relegated to clean up duty late in multiple matches.

Wondo Watch, as it was popularly called, had been going on since late in the 2018 season. Wondolowski was just one goal away from tying Landon Donovan’s MLS record of 145 goals in league play. Wondo was two away from owning the record outright. Neither achievement was realized in 2018, and with limited minutes late in nearly every match in 2019, those goals appeared even more difficult to achieve.

Despite Wondo’s limited late presence on the pitch, the Quakes had been playing well, and were now back above the line. It seemed as though new Head Coach Matias Almeyda’s strategy was working well. Then came last week’s road match versus the New England Revolution. The Quakes not only lost the match, they appeared flat from start to finish. With other clubs capturing critical points, San Jose fell back below the line once again. They returned home to regroup, refocus, and prepare for their next opponent, the Chicago Fire.

Last Saturday’s match was serious. The Earthquakes needed a win to remain closely in contention to move back above the red line. In the days before the match, most people assumed the strategy would remain the same: Chris Wondolowski would enter late, if at all, and spend the final minutes working hard to get an opportunity to find the back of the net.

The strategy changed. Danny Hoesen suffered an apparent injury in training one day before the match. It wasn’t clear whether he’d be able to compete. By match time, Wondo got the call and was back in the starting lineup. What happened next was incredible. It went well beyond the story anyone would have planned to tell. It was one for the ages. It was the glorious achievement of history with a command and dominance that only the greatest of all time could be capable of.

Chicago entered the match having won three straight supported by a stingy defense that did not give up a goal. San Jose, on the other hand, was coming off a road loss. However, they had won three straight at home scoring an impressive eight goals, while giving up only one.

Fans were excited to see Wondo on the pitch. As the match got underway, it was clear both clubs were choosing to open aggressively. Just 21 minutes into the match, everything changed. Hope turned to joy, prayers became reality, and history was being written.

Chris Wondolowski scored his first goal just 21 minutes into the match off a brilliant pass from teammate Shea Salinas. Wondo tied Landon Donovan’s record (145 MLS goals in league play). The crowd went wild. Only 27 minutes later, at the 48’ mark, he did it again. This time, Wondo maintained focus in the face of Fire keeper David Ousted, who dropped the ball, and followed through with a tap-in finish that gave him the record outright. The crowd went wild. No one expected it, not even Wondo himself. The first half ended. Everyone, including Chris Wondolowski, simultaneously celebrated and breathed a sigh of relief. It was done. The record was broken. Wondo had a brace.

Enter the second half. Minutes went by, Wondo remained in, and it was clear Chicago wasn’t giving up. Wondo fought on, and in the 74th minute, he scored again. Move the record. Note the hat trick. It came off an assist from teammate Cristian Espinoza. Just two minutes later, however, at the 76’ mark, Wondo scored again, this time off an assist from teammate Jackson Yueill. Move the record again. Note the official designation. For a moment, no one seemed to know what to call it. Hat +1? Double brace? No, it’s called a haul! Wondo got a haul!

To be clear, number 145 was fantastic. Number 146 was unbelievable. Number 147 was amazing bordering insane. Number 148 was, well, mind-blowing. It literally defied comprehension. There’s no question now, Chris Wondolowski is the greatest of all time. The team logged 21 shots, 7 of those were on target, and 4 resulted in goals courtesy of one man: future MLS Hall of Famer Chris Wondolowski.

What makes Wondo worthy of the Hall of Fame? Besides his current total of 148 goals in MLS league play, he has 41 game-winning goals. He’s currently tied with Landon Donovan in that regard. While he has tallied both braces and hat tricks in the past, this was his first recorded haul.

He’s the only player to score ten or more goals in what is now nine consecutive seasons (2010-2018), and he’s now only six goals away from making that ten plus in ten straight. No other MLS player has ever scored ten or more goals in a season more than five seasons in a row. Wondo has also scored 144 of his 148 goals with San Jose. That’s the most by any player with a single club. Remember, he’s not done yet.

Wondo also holds the record for MLS road goals at 67; and as previously mentioned, he’s tied with Landon Donovan with 41 game winning goals. No fewer than 14 of his game winning goals have been in 1-0 victories, that too being an MLS record. He’s also the only player in MLS history to score against two dozen different teams. No one in MLS history has scored against more keepers during his career, Wondo has scored against 59 of them to date.

There’s one more thing that makes one hall-worthy: humility. Asked about how the record-setting goal happened, Chris Wondolowski humbly said, "I'm just having fun right now." Fun indeed.

When asked how the moment felt, he said, "it was pretty special." Yes, yes it was.

Ever the professional, discussing his activation in the starting lineup, Wondo said, "I'm always ready, always ready to go. I know my role. I know my job." For the record, no one ran harder after the matches that preceded the one versus Chicago. That’s why he’s always ready. He’s always prepared.

Earthquakes Head Coach Matias Almeyda echoes that sentiment. About Wondo, he said, "he's a great professional and a great team member."

Wondo’s teammates agree. Shea Salinas said, "He's an incredible person, an incredible teammate, and an incredible goal-scorer."

It’s also worth noting that Chris Wondolowski scored his first MLS goal against the Chicago Fire in 2006. By capturing the record against them, things have indeed come full circle. He’s been named MLS Player of the Week for Week 12, but he’s surely hall-bound in the future.

The Earthquakes face Toronto FC on Sunday, May 26 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. The team does not return to Avaya Stadium until Saturday, June 8, to play FC Dallas. Kickoff is currently scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Fans interested in tickets can find them through the Earthquakes website.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and the San Jose Earthquakes, since 2014. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi. All images taken by Irina Filenko for American Presswire and ©2019 American Presswire. She can be found on Twitter as @FilenkoIrene and on Instagram as @stillfragments.


Earthquakes find their stride

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The turnaround is underway. After a challenging start under a new coach that echoed much of last season's results, the Earthquakes have found their stride. The club is above the red line in seventh place in the Western Conference. They’re unbeaten in four consecutive matches and have won three straight at home. They have the longest unbeaten streak in the west, and they’re tied for second longest in the league. Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill said, “The start of the season we had was a little rough. I think we were getting used to the system.”

The Earthquakes have certainly gotten used to the system. There’s a different energy during warm-ups, a swagger and confidence, all evidence of buy-in to Head Coach Matias Almeyda’s strategic plan. The team has developed a potent front that has outscored opponents 8-1 and tallied 11 goals since losing to LAFC. In stark contrast to that late March shutout in which LAFC put up 5 goals at Avaya Stadium, a suddenly stingy Earthquakes back line has not allowed a goal in two consecutive matches and is thus central to San Jose earning consecutive shutouts for the first time in two years.

The Earthquakes’ Saturday night performance versus FC Cincinnati was a clear demonstration of the grit and determination the club now possesses. The 1-0 FT shutout victory hardly tells the story. During the match, the team drew four yellow cards, two of which went against midfielder Cristian Espinoza and resulted in a red card ejection in only the 51st minute. The Earthquakes played the rest of the match with only 10 men. While defender Nick Lima scored the only goal early, in the 22nd minute, the team never stopped fighting and produced 11 shots on goal. Almeyda said it best, “The players are understanding how to identify with San Jose as a club. They are leaving their soul in every play."

Not to be forgotten is the Earthquakes performance in goal. Keeper Daniel Vega has been outstanding. His league-leading 39 saves have led to three shutouts, and his performance on Saturday did not disappoint. His acrobatic save late in the match denied FC Cincinnati midfielder, and former Earthquakes midfielder, Fatai Alashe from equalizing. That was clutch. Vega is an essential part of the team’s turnaround.

While the Earthquakes fan favorite and presumptive future hall of fame member Chris Wondolowski entered the match late and didn’t score a goal, he did set the stage for yet another remarkable achievement. His next appearance will be his 300th appearance with the team, something only four other men have ever accomplished in MLS. One match away from 300, one goal away from tying the MLS record, watching Wondo make history is both surreal and fantastic.

Unbeaten in five of their last six matches, the Earthquakes face the New England Revolution on Saturday, May 11 at Gillette Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. The team returns to Avaya Stadium to play the Chicago Fire on Saturday, May 18, with kickoff currently scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Fans interested in tickets can find them through the Earthquakes website.

Ahsan Awan has been covering pro and college sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, including Major League Soccer, since 2014. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi, and on Instagram as @quackarazzi. All images taken by Ahsan Awan and ©2019 American Presswire (Twitter: @ampresswire).