The San Jose Earthquakes, predicted by many to finish next to last in the Western Conference this year, put together a comprehensive effort on Saturday to beat the Montreal Impact 1-0 in the MLS season opener for both teams.
Anibal Godoy scored the game-winning-goal with an audacious chip shot in the 17th minute that eluded the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Evan Bush. Godoy started the play with a takeaway of Impact legend Patrice Bernier, a touch base to Chris Wondolowski that was quickly returned, and a drive into the box.
The scoring opportunity was a direct result of the Earthquakes selective use of high pressing game, one that head coach Dominic Kinnear employed throughout the preseason to great effect.
“I wanted to make sure we started off the game with good energy, with good pressure and obviously that pressure led to a goal,” said Kinnear. “On the other side, they may say they’ve made mistakes, and I have been on that side as well, but without pressure those mistakes don’t come. It starts with the two guys up front. At the beginning they were really setting the tone and making it easy for the guys behind them to read the play and cut out some passing lanes. “
Wondolowski and forward partner Marco Urena constantly harassed the Impact from the opening whistle, with the Quakes midfielders stepping up strategically when the chances arose. It was never frenetic, but always energetic, and Montreal looked unable to cope with it through most of the game.
“We were expecting them to press us,” said Impact head coach Mauro Biello, “but we needed to be better on the ball, to be able to break lines when you’re being pressed.”
The Impact are loaded offensively, so the Earthquakes weren’t going to be able to press with abandon. Instead, the team motto of “Eleven Playing as One” set the tone that the players could keep Montreal on their collective back foot without sacrificing their defensive shape.
"It's something we've really tried to implement this season,” said Wondolowski. “We attack with eleven and we defend with eleven. We want to have that killer instinct, both offensively and defensively, when we step on the field.”
While Godoy was the clear favorite for Man of the Match, Florian Jungwirth earned Newcomer of the Game for his mammoth performance at center back. And while his limited English caused him to rate his MLS debut as “hilarious,” the German defender was a force in both disrupting the Impact’s offense and communicating with his teammates.
“Flo did a great job tonight,” said Wondolowski. “He reads the game so well and is able to sniff out passes. He makes it look easy when it is not an easy thing to do against some talented guys. He reads the game very well, and organizes and communicates really well, which is something we need.”
For his part, Jungwirth took the accolades in stride, holding court in the locker room and disarming the media with his confident smile and demeanor. He referenced his time in the German Bundesliga as having less of a physical challenge compared to MLS, and he was very happy to have followed his dreams to play in America.
“Honestly, I really enjoyed it from the first to the last minute,” said Jungwirth. “It was a really great match for us. The plan was to attack early, to give a lot of pressure on Montreal. I think from the start you see there was just one direction for the team. In the end we win, which was the most important goal.”
The Earthquakes return to action this Saturday when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps at Avaya Stadium, kickoff is scheduled for 6:45 p.m.
Video Highlight of Anibal Godoy goal
San Jose Earthquakes 1 - 0 Montreal Impact
March. 4, 2017 - Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA
Scoring Summary: SJ — Anibal Godoy (Chris Wondolowski) 17.
Misconduct Summary: MTL — Chris Duvall (caution) 14; SJ — Fatai Alashe (caution) 35; MTL — Hassoun Camara (caution) 45+1 (second caution) 66; MTL — Matteo Mancosu (caution) 83; SJ — Shea Salinas (caution) 90+2.
San Jose Earthquakes: David Bingham; Shaun Francis, Victor Bernardez, Florian Jungwirth, Nick Lima; Tommy Thompson (Shea Salinas 69), Anibal Godoy, Fatai Alashe, Simon Dawkins (Jahmir Hyka 70); Marco Ureña (Danny Hoesen 79), Chris Wondolowski.
Statistics: Shots: 17, Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 0; Fouls: 12; Corner Kicks: 7; Offside: 3.
Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Ambroise Oyongo, Hassoun Camara, Chris Duvall, Laurent Ciman; Ignacio Piatti, Marco Donadel, Hernan Bernadello (Nick DePuy 83), Patrice Bernier (Daniel Lovitz 74); Dominic Oduro (Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla 63), Matteo Manccosu.
Statistics: Shots: 5; Shots on Goal: 0; Saves: 3; Fouls: 17; Corner Kicks: 5; Offside: 4.