SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Earthquakes returned to their winning ways Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in front of a sell-out crowd at Avaya Stadium
A long-range golazo midway through the second half from Nick Lima gave the Quakes all they would need in snapping a three game MLS losing streak. The clean sheet was the team’s first since a scoreless draw against Sporting Kansas City in mid June.
“I was able to pick out the corner on that side,” said Lima, who scored the game winning goal off a corner kick delivery from Shea Salinas, “and I tried to hit it as cleanly as possible and it went into the back of the net.”
For the rookie defender, only the second Homegrown Player signing in team history, it was his second goal of the season, but it could have come at a better time for the Earthquakes.
“Getting that shutout is big-time at home,” said Lima. “It lets everyone know around MLS that it is hard to come and play here, and that’s good.”
“This was a huge win for us,” added Salinas. “Three points is three points, and we needed it.”
The Earthquakes had been outscored 12-3 in those three loses, all away from Avaya Stadium, and the defensive resolve the team showed on its return home was a welcome sight.
“The objective coming in was to get three points,” said Lima. “In this league, it is hard to win on the road, and you have to take advantage of the wins at home, and that’s what we did. It was a team effort in getting the shutout. We fought from the beginning to the end and we ended up getting the three points.”
Earthquakes head coach Chris Leitch, who picked up his second MLS victory with the 1-0 win over Colorado, was also pleased with the effort from his team, especially after what could have been a demoralizing 0-3 road trip.
“Any time you lose a couple games, and it doesn’t matter by how much, you’re going to have a bad feeling,” said Leitch. “It was really good to get this result and not concede. At home, it is that double-edged sword: You want to go for that first goal for sure, but you can’t open yourself up too much. We did a good job of toeing that balance all game.”
The Quakes welcomed back Marco Urena, who helped Costa Rica make the semifinals of the Gold Cup, back into the starting line-up. And with Jahmir Hyka out with a hamstring injury, Designated Player Simon Dawkins took his place in midfield. Newly signed Swiss defender Francois Affolter was not available for selection as the team awaits his ITC.
Earthquakes midfielder Matheus Silva, who nearly drowned in a Fourth of July swimming incident at Lake Tahoe, was on hand. The three men responsible for saving his life, paddleboarders Colby Peterson and Chris Guenther, who pulled Silva out of the water, and John Burke, who administered CPR on Silva when he was rushed back to shore, were recognized in the first kick pregame ceremony.
The mid-afternoon kick-off time resulted in a sleepy start to the match, as neither side was able to muster much meaningful possession. Darwin Ceren, playing the role of defensive midfielder stopper, kept busy in the center of the formation, as Colorado tried to break on the Quakes at every opportunity. San Jose’s wing-backs, who had been torched the weekend before during a 3-0 loss at Seattle, made defense their priority against the Rapids, and the chances on offense for the home side were few and far between.
A near penalty shout in the 42nd minute gave the Quakes their best chance of half, as Dawkins was fouled by Jared Watts at the lip of the area. Chris Wondolowski tipped up the free kick, but it was deflected by the wall over the target.
The teams entered the locker room scoreless, combining for three total shots on goal. The Rapids brought in super-sub Alan Gordon to start the second half, while the Earthquakes kept the same line-up. Gordon didn’t wait long to introduce himself to his old team, slamming his head into goalkeeper David Bingham’s shoulder on a cross attempt five minutes into the half.
But it would be the Quakes who struck first, and in a most unusual manner: a set piece. In the 59th minute, Salinas directly a corner kick to the top of the area for Ceren, whose glancing header found Lima 30 yards from goal. The rookie got everything behind his shot, stinging the ball into the upper right corner for the first goal of the game, his second of the season.
“Initially, I am trying to find Darwin there,” said Salinas. “But Darwin flicks it on, and Nick traps it and has a great finish, so it worked out. Not exactly how we drew it up, but pretty close.”
The goal seemed to give the home side a jolt of energy, and when Tommy Thompson entered for Dawkins in the 67th minute, the Quakes nearly doubled their lead through the dynamic midfielder. Thompson, off a feed from Ceren, one-touched a shot from inside the area that narrowly missed the target before settling into the seats just in front of the LOBINA.
Urena should have done better with a perfect feed from Wondolowski in the 71st minute, as the Costa Rican rounded goalkeeper Zac MacMath on the left side of the area and had an open goal to shot at, but he scuffed his shot wide and into the side netting. In the 73rd minute, Wondolowski again fed Urena, this time at the top of the area, but the forward repeated the feat with a wide attempt.
The duo were at it again — with roles reversed — in the 76th minute, as Urena’s cross to a streaking Wondolowski in the box was right where it needed to be, but the Quakes captain somehow managed to head the ball over the bar. Thompson had catalyzed the play with a marauding run through the midfield before unselfishly laying the ball off for Urena.
Wondolowski didn’t have too much time to rue the miss, as in the 82nd minute his chance for redemption came in the form of a sitter from 10 yards out. Instead of doubling San Jose’s lead, the team’s all-time leading scorer conspired to send his right-footed shot wide of the mark, prompting another head-in-hands moment.
The need for a second goal was avoided as the Quakes managed to limit the Rapids the rest of the way, earning a shutout victory and snapping a streak of three straight defeats. The win moved the Earthquakes to 8-9-5 on the season, just below the red line in the Western Conference.