SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The first-ever MLS match at brand new Avaya Stadium started off brightly for the San Jose Earthquakes with two quick goals. The Fire pulled one back to make it interesting, but the Quakes effectively managed the game for over 60 minutes to collect a 2-1 victory and all three points on offer.
"We came out with a good aggression," said Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear, "with a good amount of energy."
Fatai Alashe and Ty Harden scored the first goals of their MLS careers in spotting San Jose to an early 2-0 lead. Harrison Shipp scored in the 29th minute to halve the Quakes lead, but that was all the visitors could manage on an afternoon that a sell-out crowd of 18,000 celebrated the grand opening of the club's new stadium.
"The atmosphere was fantastic," said Kinnear. "I'm glad we gave them some early goals to get them excited and keep them nice and vocal. Overall, it's a wonderful place to play."
Chicago's goal did take the wind out of San Jose's sails, but the Fire could not find a way to break down the Quakes defense for over 60 minutes, and they leave the Bay Area with their third consecutive loss to open the 2015 MLS season.
"We played well enough to get a point out of the game," said Fire head coach Frank Yallop. "When you go 2-nil down away from home it's always a tough one. We struggled as a unit."
The Earthquakes wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard, as a fifth minute corner kick set-up the game's first goal. Matias Perez Garcia delivered an outswinger that Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson rushed out to collect. Instead, JJ Koval reached the ball first and headed it past Johnson, but it ricocheted off his teammate Ty Harden.
"With set pieces, it's about the guys you have out there," said Alashe. "All you can really do is run through it the day before the game. What it comes down to in the game is execution. You have to have a good ball in and the guys to play it. We definitely did that today, and it paid off for us."
The loose ball was reached by Clarence Goodson and headed on target, but before it reached the goal line, it was redirected by Alashe into the empty net for a 1-0 lead. The goal was the first-ever scored at Avaya Stadium and the first of the rookie midfielder's MLS career.
"My job was to stay in front of the goalkeeper and don't let him come out easily for balls," continued Alashe. "It was a great ball whipped in. It bounced around a little bit and Clay got a good head on it toward goal. I knew there was someone behind me, and I wasn't sure if they were going to stop it, so I did my best to flick it on into the goal. It worked out."
San Jose doubled its lead in the 21st minute on another set piece opportunity. A Perez Garcia entry ball from near the center line was directed on goal by Goodson's waiting left foot, but Johnson was positioned to make a kick save. However, the Fire goalkeeper was leaning the wrong way following the save, and Ty Harden rushed in to poke home the rebound and double the Earthquakes lead. It was the first goal scored by Harden in a MLS career that started in 2007.
"The crowd was awesome the whole time," said Harden about the reaction to his goal. "It was loud and everyone felt really close. And then it was all the guys on the team jumping and piling on me made it that much better. It was a good feeling."
Chicago halved the lead in the 29th minute when midfielder Joevin Jones threaded a pass behind defender Shaun Francis and right into the path or Shipp. The second-year homegrown signing calmly slotted his shot out of the reach of Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham to make the game interesting.
Johnson and Bingham traded quality saves as the first half came to a close with the score still 2-1 in favor of the home side. The second 45 minutes was primarily about the Earthquakes protecting their one goal advantage.
"Defensively, we played great in the second half," said Bingham. "All the guys worked extremely hard and we kept their chances few and far between. It was a good win and good work from everyone."
San Jose had a golden chance to collect a third goal in the 64th minute when former MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski found space at the far post with only the ‘keeper to beat. But as the Quakes DP lined up his shot, defender Eric Gehrig made a sliding stop to kill the momentum of the ball and deflect it onto the top of the goal.
Adam Jahn came in for Perez Garcia in the 83rd minute and almost made an immediate impact for San Jose. Some clever interplay with Wondolowski freed Jahn at the top of the area, but as the forward prepared to unleash his shot, the Fire defense converged to snuff out the danger.
The Quakes worked to kill off the game over the last 10 minutes of play, as the Fire desperately tried to make something happen on offense, but San Jose's defense was present again and again to thwart Chicago's efforts. Goodson, making his first appearance since last July, was especially effective over his 90 minute shift.
"It was a good 90 minutes considering that I haven't played in quite a while," said Goodson. "I did feel good on the ball and my defending was really good. I'd like to get a little stronger in the legs, but I felt I still had more to give in the end."
Goodson made a sliding stop of a Chicago scoring opportunity in stoppage time to preserve the historic win for San Jose. With the victory, the Earthquakes moved into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference, behind only FC Dallas, the team that beat them in the season opener.
"It was a pretty good result.," said Goodson. "You get a win and three points. We can still improve as a team, we still have a long way to go, but it's great to be sitting here with six points."
The Earthquakes next play this Saturday away at the New England Revolution. The Quakes will be looking to earn their first three-game winning streak since October of 2013.