The San Jose Earthquakes faced their latest yardstick test of the 2021 MLS regular season and were once again disappointed, taking an early lead but losing 3-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at PayPal Park.
It was the third loss on the trot for the Earthquakes, effectively cancelling out the previous three-game winning streak that made it appear the team were ready to really compete with the top teams in the Western Conference. It’s been a rough stretch but it’s safe to say they remain a work in progress.
Matias Almeyda brought Chofís Lopez to start, alongside Tommy Thompson and Paul Marie as the fullbacks. Andy Rios replaced the injured Carlos Fierro in the XI.
The Quakes said they wanted to get off to a hot start, and they did just that, with a set piece goal in the 4th minute. Cristian Espinoza hit a corner kick at pace directly to Chofís at the top of the box, and the Mexican made his goal look easy.
QUE GOLAZO CHOFIS pic.twitter.com/YHvSQJ46Uc— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) May 23, 2021
But Sporting tied up the game in basically their first foray into San Jose’s box, in the 15th minute, with Alan Pulido sending a nice diagonal that Jaylin Lindsey latched onto at the far post and sent into the net.
And just like that, we're level!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 23, 2021
Alan Pulido plays an excellent ball to Jaylin Lindsey for the equalizer. pic.twitter.com/ptyFbWQN1V
Cade Cowell had a nice chance in the 24th minute, but Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia made the stop after it got through traffic, to keep the score tied. A few minutes later, Marcinkowski had a big stop, catching Gadi Kinda’s outside-of-the-boot attempt and not allowing a rebound on the play.
The teams went into the locker room tied 1-1. I think the fireworks were early, before the game settled into a fairly ineffective back-and-forth for both teams.
The 2nd half was more of the same, but San Jose had a great chance just before the hour mark on a good team buildup, only for Rios’ header in front of goal to be mishit and fly harmlessly out of bounds.
That miss was punished with Sporting taking a lead in the 60th minute, Pulido subtly juking Thompson before hitting the shot to put the Quakes in a 2-1 hole.
A rocket from @alanpulido! pic.twitter.com/hdCDVY980b— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 23, 2021
Moments later Sporting scored again, but it was called back for an offside in the buildup. That call certainly saved the Quakes’ blushes as they chased the game.
Almeyda made a triple sub in the 65th minute, bringing in Chris Wondolowski, Fierro and Shea Salinas for Rios, Chofís and Thompson, respectively.
But it was to no avail, as Wondo missed a decent shot on one end, and a few minutes later, Daniel Salloi hit a nifty curler to ice the game for Sporting at 3-1.
.@danielsalloi with the CURLER #SJvSKC | #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/SUCEk9mXBR— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 23, 2021
Benji Kikanovic replaced Cowell in the 83rd minute.
While the loss to the Sounders a week and a half ago was kind of a moral victory for the Earthquakes, and the loss to the Timbers last week a case of missed opportunities, this loss was more disappointing because while San Jose got the early start they wanted, they faded pretty badly in the second half and were very much the second-best side in that half, and that’s not good enough for a team that needs to win the intensity battle all game long.
The Earthquakes will head out on the road next Saturday, when they take on their California Clasico rivals LA Galaxy in Southern California.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.