Great flow from the technical area and a clean strike by Magnus Eriksson failed to lead the Quakes to their fifth-straight home-opener win. Two goals from Montreal Impact stars Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider to close the first half sunk San Jose on opening night 2-1, opening the Matias Almeyda era in slightly disappointing fashion.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t bright spots. Eriksson’s strike, for starts, was not the highlight of the Swede’s season-opening goal. [No, it wasn’t Almeyda’s fist-flinging, hair-flipping celebration, either … thought it’s close.] Anibal Godoy made a seeing-eye pass to Vako, who turned on a dime to distribute to a wide-open Eriksson. His finish left Evan Bush no opportunity to make the save.
On a night all about the newcomers (a couple of whom impressed, it should be noted), the only San Jose goal came from a trio of would-be stalwarts. Vako has been with the club since 2017, Godoy since 2015 and Eriksson is the relative newcomer as he joined the Quakes last year.
The actual newcomers played quite well, particularly left-back Marcos Lopez. The 19-year-old Peruvian boasts national team experience, something that will no doubt help solidify what is a not-very-good San Jose back line. The most significant difference between the Earthquakes (small sample size alert) in 2019 vs. … well, the last very-bad recent past appears to be a willingness to connect from the back.
That’s where Judson and Espinoza come into play. San Jose controlled 73 percent of the possession in the second half, not terribly surprising considering they were trailing for the entirety of it. But the Quakes also led possession at nearly every five-minute interval in the first half. That’s a great sign for a team that was getting it done “”playing direct”” not too long ago simply because it didn’t have another option.
While the finishing could use some work (this is a team that still relies on Chris Wondolowski too much … and it hurts to write that), the Quakes attempted 14 shots. That’s a tick above their 12.9-per-game average last year and in line with the MLS average (13.35) after the first week. The team finished in last place a year ago. We’ll take the positives.
“I don’t like to lose. Today I’m not going to be able to sleep, I’m going to watch the game three or four times,” said Almeyda, through a translator. “There are details that we have to improve on. The day that the opponent dribbles past five of our players and scores I will congratulate him. Now if one of our players isn’t where he is supposed to be, then we have to correct that error.”
There will almost certainly be errors to correct before the Quakes take on Minnesota on March 9. That’s another home game for San Jose and another opportunity for Almeyda to get his first MLS victory.