The San Jose Earthquakes have advanced to the quarterfinal round of the MLS is Back Tournament, and they aren’t ready to go home yet.
“I think everybody enjoys being here,” attacker Magnus Eriksson said to reporters from Orlando after Monday’s 5-2 win over Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16. “That was actually one of the things we said before the game on the field, that we’ve been here almost five weeks, so we can stay two more and go all the way to the final.”
Eriksson scored a brace from the penalty spot, and goals from Cristian Espinoza, Vako and Chris Wondolowski showed the Quakes were more than able to weather a couple mistakes that led to RSL’s two goals on the night.
“I think it’s part of the game because there’s 11 players on the other side as well,” head coach Matias Almeyda said through an interpreter when asked about the goals allowed on the night. “Whenever you concede a goal you always have to try to look for the equalizer. From the way I view football, whenever there’s a goal, there’s mistakes and also virtues for or against you.
“We always work to correct mistakes but the most gratifying thing is the players don’t change their attitude, they change their approach, they still back up the system, whether they’re ahead or behind. To me that’s called unity, that’s called conviction, and that’s accepting that somebody can make a mistake,” Almeyda added.
The Earthquakes are on a three-game winning streak at the MLS is Back Tournament, and are unbeaten across the four games so far.
Forward Andy Rios acknowledged the good vibes: “I think we’re getting very confident and I’m just glad that we keep getting these victories, and we’re happy to keep going as a team,” he said through an interpreter.
Almeyda agreed the team seems to be building with each performance.
“I think the team is growing game after game, they’re still showing a very positive attitude, their unity, their sacrifice, but in more than anything, how they play. The best thing for a coach is being able to get the max level out of each player because I know that will allow us to have growth. Again, I’m thankful for each player, for this delivery that they had,” he said.
Eriksson revealed his good form on penalties on the night — an all-time perfect mark for the Quakes he maintained — came in part after working on kicks from the spot all week in preparation for the knockout game.
“We had been shooting penalties during the week and I felt pretty confident. I had a great feeling before both penalty kicks, it was no doubt from my side. I’m really happy with the performance tonight and the boys and everybody around the team. It’s a great evening for us.”
But it wasn’t just what happened from the penalty spot that gave San Jose the win. Like Almeyda, Eriksson credited the teamwork on the night.
“We train a lot in our way of playing, when it comes to our gameplan. And I think we as a team tonight, we moved the ball among each other and we create a lot of opportunities. I think this is one of the best performances we have done in a long time. Everybody feels confident on the ball, we work hard together. I’m pleased with the whole team and we really feel like a strong group together and that’s important out there.”
For a team that entered the competition with few expectations of making noise nationally, the Earthquakes are content to just keep going, with their quarterfinal match coming Saturday.
“That’s our goal, and we enjoy it here. We play great as a team and enjoy every minute together. I’m really happy being here, I think a lot of guys are happy to be here. We make the best of this situation and try to go as far as we can,” said Eriksson.
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