SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The team had one job on Sunday: beat the visiting Rapids and get the new MLS season off to a strong start. They accomplished their goal courtesy of a Chris Wondolowski header and a David Bingham shutout, and now the Earthquakes can bring a sigh of relief that they have the horses to compete in a competitive Western Conference.
Okay, admittedly Colorado is not expected to be a major player in the West this season, but Pablo Mastroeni's men looked a whole lot better than their last-place finish in 2015 would suggest. The Quakes played good enough on the day to earn the three points, and they did not disappoint the sell-out crowd that filled Avaya Stadium on Sunday.
What went right and wrong for the Quakes? Here are three thoughts from the Earthquakes 1-0 season opening victory over the Rapids.
A Flat First Half -- The first 45 minutes of the Quakes first competitive match since last October looked anything but promising. The Rapids successfully stifled wingers Shea Salinas and Alberto Quintero, preventing the two fastest Earthquakes on the field from doing much of anything. Simon Dawkins played forward of Anibal Godoy in the middle of the park, and the disconnect was obvious to all. And even when cut back passes to switch the point of attack were on offer, the Quakes continued to press ahead instead of assess behind.
The strategy of lumping the ball forward to Qunicy Amarikwa proved speculative at best, as Colorado defenders Axel Sjoberg and Jared Watts dished the punishment with every aerial challenge. And even when he could collect the ball, there was not enough movement by his teammates to receive the ball, and often Amarikwa was forced to take matters into his own hands. It didn't often work.
The one bright spot: goalkeeper David Bingham, who made the saves he needed to make and was fairly effective in distributing the ball from the back. Bingham looked nothing like the Nervous Nelly that opened the campaign in 2015.
Kip Colvey Looks Like He Belongs -- Call it coincidence that the Earthquakes scored their first goal of the game less than a minute after the rookie took the field as a halftime substitute, but from that moment forward, Colvey did not look out of place playing in place of Shaun Francis, who suffered a right quad strain, on the left side. He was a bit aggressive at times attacking the ball, but he quickly recovered from any transgressions.
Given that Jordan Stewart is still three to four weeks away from full fitness, and Francis will be out for an indeterminate amount of time, Colvey could get a lot of minutes in the first month of the season. His strong preseason showing will give the Earthquakes coaching staff confidence that he can stand up to the pressure, but upcoming opponents are sure to target the rookie in their attacking moves.
Wondo Being Wondo -- As he's done over 100 times in his MLS career, Chris Wondolowski found the back of the net for the Earthquakes. And in typical Wondo fashion, the captain crept into the space between the Rapids hulking center backs to get his head on the ball. Later in the second half, Wondolowski almost did it again, but he was denied by goalkeeper Zac MacMath on the line. 33-years-old this season, Wondo will not be slowed down by Father Time.
And speaking of father, Wondolowski and his wife Lindsey are expected their second child any day now. The newest Wondolowski is a girl, who will join older sister Emersyn in the happy household. Congratulations, Chris and Lindsey!