SAN JOSE, Calif. — In their final match of the preseason, the San Jose Earthquakes beat the Sacramento Republic FC of the second division USL 4-1 in front of an appreciative crowd at Avaya Stadium.
Shea Salinas started the scoring with a easy finish early in the first half. Sacramento tied the game from the penalty spot, the Quakes answered with goals from Simon Dawkins, Jahmir Hyka, and Danny Hoesen, each scoring for the first time this preseason.
“We had a little bit of everything,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear, a bit hoarse after the game following 90 minutes of barking orders. “It was good to see the new guys get involved the way they did, scoring some nice goals. To end the preseason with a win like today was a positive.”
San Jose has never lost to Sacramento, pushing their all-time record to 6-0-0 with the victory. Two of those wins came as part of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament, with the remainder as part of both teams’ preseasons stretching back to the Republic’s inaugural 2014 season.
“This was an important win for us,” said Dawkins. “It gives us confidence going into the season. And to win convincingly as well, with the new guys scoring, it should bring a good start to the season. Hopefully, we can do the business this year.”
The Quakes were without star forward Chris Wondolowski for the game, as the Designated Player was held out as a precaution after rolling his ankle at Thursday’s practice session. He participated in pregame and halftime warm-ups and is expected back in full training this week ahead of the MLS season opener this Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” said Wondolowski. “If the game was today, I’d have been out there.”
The game kicked off under sunny skies, as both teams took quickly to the new field installed at Avaya Stadium. San Jose dodged a bullet in the 7th minute when Anibal Godoy dropped a back-pass into the path of an onrushing Republic forward. The Panamanian was saved his blushes when David Bingham made a point-blank save to prevent a sure goal.
Salinas gave the Quakes the early lead stabbing home a cross from Tommy Thompson in the 14th minute. Rookie Nick Lima started the play with a throw-in deep in Sacramento territory, freeing Thompson for the open pass.
The Quakes nearly doubled their lead in the 24th minute when Salinas picked out Fatai Alashe for a contested header in front of goal, but the midfielder sent his shot just wide of the target.
Victor Bernardez, already in midseason form, earned a yellow card in the 28th minute for a tough challenge on a Republic forward. He dived in on another risky tackle closer to halftime, narrowly missing out on a second yellow, as the referee elected to talk it over with the Quakes defender instead of reaching for his back pocket.
Hyka, the newest member of the squad entered the game at halftime for Salinas. It was the Albanian’s second appearance for the Quakes since arriving in San Jose earlier this week. He played for 16 minutes against Reno 1868 FC in a closed-door scrimmage on Tuesday.
Sacramento evened the score in the 54th minute as Sammy Ochoa slotted home a penalty kick after Godoy was called for a hand ball in the box. The former Seattle Sounders forward had just signed with the Republic FC the previous day.
The Earthquakes restored their lead in the 66th minute when Darwin Ceren, who entered the game minutes earlier, picked off a ball at midfield and fired forward to Dawkins. The Quakes DP turned to face goal and, seeing the goalkeeper back tracking a bit, unleashed a rocket low to his left from 25 yards out. It was Dawkins’ first goal of the preseason.
Hyka pushed the lead to 3-1 in the 79th minute with a clever finish off a Godoy crossing pass. The goal electrified the fans in attendance, many hoping to see the diminutive midfielder make his mark in his Avaya Stadium debut.
“It was a very good pass from Anibal,” said Hyka. “It was easy for more to score the goal because the pass was perfect. It was my first game here (at Avaya Stadium) and it was nice to score, but it will be more important to score in the league games.”
With the lead safely in hand, the Quakes controlled the final 10 minutes of the match, even adding another insurance goal from Hoesen, in securing their sixth win of the preseason. San Jose will host the Montreal Impact next Saturday, March 4, in the MLS season opener for both teams. The Earthquakes will travel to Bonney Field on March 22 to play the Republic in a second match, one that will be part of Sacramento’s ongoing preseason.