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Almeyda: Earthquakes’ attacking pressure pinned Timbers, Sounders back

Coach applauds effort during tough week in terms of results.

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

A week ago, the San Jose Earthquakes were on a three-game winning streak and riding high. Since then, they’ve lost two games at home, most recently a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

While Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda wasn’t quite as upbeat in the face of defeat compared to Wednesday’s 1-0 loss against the Seattle Sounders, he was philosophical after the most recent loss.

“I think football is simple: If you score and they don’t, you win; and if you concede and you don’t score, you lose,” Almeyda told reporters postgame via interpreter. “Today was a very similar game to the last one, because we created many chances, headers, even the penalty, even shots that we missed the tap-in. And against this team and like the last game, if you don’t forgive, they don’t forgive you, and they had two chances they were able to put away and we weren’t able to put any away, it’s very simple.”

The key play of the game likely came in the 2nd half, with Portland leading 1-0 and San Jose drawing a penalty. But Chris Wondolowski’s PK was saved by Timbers goalkeeper Logan Ketterer, making his debut for the club.

It was the second penalty not scored by the Earthquakes already this season, and Almeyda admitted it’s likely something the team needs to work on.

“We have to train [over penalties]. I think if we had to pick a penalty taker tonight it would be the all-time scorer for the club and league,” Almeyda said with a chuckle, “but I think today’s penalty showed good work from the goalkeeper. The penalty was well-taken and the goalkeeper, who’s 6’3, he stretched his arm out and got next to the post. But I don’t just take away the penalty, I take away the chances we created, how we were able to get there. We were just missing the finishing at the end.”

One potential concern for the Quakes may be that both the Sounders and Timbers found success stopping a previously-potent San Jose attack. Almeyda was not in favor of opposing defenses “sitting deep” as a rule, but said he did not believe the last two opponents consciously played a low block defense to neutralize the high-energy Earthquakes.

“Hopefully American soccer doesn’t do that, sitting deep,” Almeyda said. “I think that would be a step back in the game and as to our game, we make the opponents sit deep. Seattle and Portland don’t have these characteristics [of sitting deep defensively], and they have two great coaches, whose tastes in football I admire, and I don’t think they sit deep. I don’t think that’s what they do.

“But I think our game, we put them there. The rhythm of the game played out that way and as a matter of fact, during our play 11 of their players were sitting behind the ball. And like that, we still created chances on the flank or through the middle. But again, in football you have to score your goals, you can have your chances but if you don’t put them away, it’s 1-0 down,” he added.

One Quakes player, forward Benji Kikanovic, made his MLS debut in Saturday’s loss. While the lanky attacker didn’t get on the board, he was thrown into the fray and had a couple good looks down the stretch.

“It gives me pleasure to give debuts to the youngsters,” Almeyda noted. “It’s not easy to come on in these types of games. Sometimes trying to pay attention to detail, nerves, those things make it so that you don’t play well, but this is a team that we have with lots of youngsters, and the day they have 40 games under their belts, if they can keep up with this system, this style of play, we’ll compete differently.”

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