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Suddenly inert: San Jose Earthquakes 0, Portland Timbers 2

Tough week for Quakes ends with another loss.

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

The San Jose Earthquakes certainly had their moments and chances on Saturday, but they lost their second game of the week at PayPal Park, falling via 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Portland Timbers.

The Quakes weren’t quite clicking even like they did in their midweek loss to the Seattle Sounders, but they certainly weren’t terrible in this game, with a couple defensive breakdowns and a suddenly stuttering attack halting their good momentum to start the season.

Matias Almeyda made four changes to his starting XI from the midweek game, bringing in Paul Marie, Oswaldo Alanís, Luciano Abecasis and Andy Rios. This was Rios’ first start of the season.

Once again, San Jose started the game a bit sleepy and they got punished for it, as Yimmi Chara made a run into the box, receiving a pass from Eryk Williamson, and chipped it easily over JT Marcinkowski just five minutes in.

From there, San Jose took control of possession and started to shoot in volume, a hallmark of their approach, and a smart strategy with Portland fielding a newcomer in goal, Logan Ketterer brought in on loan this week because of an injury crisis at that position.

In the 30th minute, Portland nearly doubled their lead off a corner kick, but Dario Zuparic’s header clanged off the post.

A couple minutes later, Cristian Espinoza decided to test Ketterer on a free kick from way downtown, and while he was on target, the goalkeeper pushed it over the goal.

The teams went into the locker rooms with the Timbers leading 1-0, but the Earthquakes had the run of the game otherwise and were just short in terms of getting an equalizer.

No changes to start the 2nd half, and the Timbers had more of the ball, no doubt to look for a second goal, and Felipe Mora pressed Marcinkowski into making a save in the 55th minute, the goalkeeper keeping the Earthquakes in contention in the game.

In the 58th minute, Chofís Lopez entered for Espinoza, Shea Salinas came in for Marie, and Chris Wondolowski joined the fray in place of Florian Jungwirth, Almeyda going for broke to try and transform the game in San Jose’s favor.

During a play a few minutes later, San Jose nearly scored but the ball eluded Wondo at the far post. However, the ball was handled by Timbers defender Claudio Bravo on the entry cross and a penalty was called for San Jose. Wondolowski stepped up, but Ketterer made the save to keep the Quakes off the board.

In the 63rd minute, Benji Kikanovic made his MLS debut off the bench for the Earthquakes in place of Carlos Fierro. Three minutes later, Jack Skahan made his season debut, in relief of Rios.

But the Earthquakes couldn’t capitalize, and Marvin Loria got their insurance goal in the 74th minute, with Williamson hitting a floated cross that Loria headed in at the back post.

Off a corner kick in the 80th minute, San Jose nearly got a goal, with Wondo hitting a flicked header that almost trickled in, but Ketterer was on the spot again to make the stop.

Kikanovic nearly scored deep in stoppage time, Abecasis’ cross reaching the youngster at the near post, but his flicked header to the far post sailed just wide. But no goals were to be had on the night for the Quakes.

This game reminded me of a combination of the herky-jerky opener against Houston and the good parts of the “close but no cigar” performance against the Sounders on Wednesday. It being the first double-game week of the season, there’s probably good reason to give the Earthquakes some leash after a couple tough losses, but they aren’t playing terribly, just not quite able to get it over the line. Combine that with a monster game from Williamson, who was unstoppable on the night with two assists for the Timbers, and the Quakes’ penalty save capping off a huge night for Ketterer, and this game could have gone differently with a few adjustments by the Quakes.

San Jose are scheduled to be back in action next Saturday, when they will host Sporting Kansas City for the teams’ first meeting since their playoff clash last year. This will be the last home game for over a month for the Earthquakes, so hopefully they can get right before heading out on the road.

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