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Getting closer: San Jose Earthquakes 1, Portland Timbers 1

Quakes battle back to split points with Timbers.

MLS: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes went down in the first half, but battled back to find an equalizer and draw the Portland Timbers 1-1 Wednesday in MLS regular season action at Earthquakes Stadium.

Vako had the crucial goal that was not immediately awarded, but eventually gave San Jose their second straight draw, in a performance that built on the defensive improvement in Sunday’s scoreless draw against the LA Galaxy, while also bringing back an attacking component as the Earthquakes hunt for a first win since returning to play locally.

The big news coming into the game was two players getting a start, with JT Marcinkowski making his first first-team start since 2018 in goal in place of Daniel Vega, and defender Jacob Akanyirige making his MLS debut, the 18-year-old starting in central defense alongside Oswaldo Alanís.

San Jose controlled the run of play in the first half, but Portland drew first blood against the run of play, as Yimmi Chara scored his first goal in MLS after being set up by his brother Diego in the 34th minute to break San Jose’s defensive line.

Vako almost had an answer in the 38th minute, but his shot clanged off the post, and moments later he had a chance right in front of goal that trickled wide.

Things got worse just before halftime, as Alanís was pulled out of the game as he appeared to suffer a knee injury. He immediately stopped play and couldn’t make it to the halftime whistle, and the Earthquakes will nervously await news of his prognosis. Tommy Thompson entered for him to begin the second half, with Florian Jungwirth shifting back to central defense in Alanís’ place. Meanwhile, Shea Salinas replaced Paul Marie at the break.

Portland had a chance to double their lead in the 55th minute, when a cross from Pablo Bonilla ended up bouncing over to a wide-open Jaroslaw Niezgoda, but he was so ponderous with his chance that Marcinkowski was able to get down to make the save.

It looked like San Jose found the equalizer in the 76th minute, as substitute Chris Wondolowski and Vako linked up on the buildup, but Vako’s shot was cleared out of the goal quickly, and play continued, with San Jose protesting the goal. Eventually, VAR signaled the referee to take a quick look of the ball, and a glance at the screen showed it was over the line and the goal was awarded.

A few minutes later, another substitute, Cade Cowell, almost got the go-ahead goal for San Jose with a snap header in the box, but his shot went off the outside of the post and he was ultimately offside.

I think the Quakes will be disappointed that they didn’t win a game that was there for the taking, and where they absolutely dominated in attacking chances and possession, but a score draw is a sign of progress after a recent string of awful defeats. I think the team is nearing a do-or-die moment for their prospects in 2020, but if they can start winning ASAP, they may still have playoff chances yet.

These teams will be back at it in the next game, Saturday again at Earthquakes Stadium. More of the same or a different outcome? You’ll have to tune in Saturday to find out.

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