The San Jose Earthquakes have won three games in a row and if you’re not a hardcore fan of the team, you may wonder why or how.
But one of the constants in the Matias Almeyda era has been the collective ethos on the roster and the belief in themselves and each other. And that was on no better display than in Friday’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake in Utah, in which the Quakes conceded a golazo just before halftime and looked like they just didn’t have it on the night, before Almeyda made game-changing substitutions again and one of them, Chris Wondolowski, scored two goals to win the game.
As he typically does in these situations, Almeyda paid tribute to the team for working hard and doing what he asked.
“I thank the players every day for their willingness, their devotion, their desire, their convictions, but more than anything else, the humility that they have. And the team has been growing, they believed they could win the game, and we had our reward,” Almeyda told reporters after the game via interpreter.
Underlying this suddenly hot start to the season for San Jose is the personal grief of Almeyda, who lost his father due to COVID recently, the head coach missing most of preseason as a result.
With the manager instilling such a strong sense of collective belief in his team, it’s little surprise the team wants to lift him up however they can.
“It’s very cliché to say, but we believe down to our core that we are a family,” said Wondolowski. “I believe it’s family over biology, sometimes, you don’t need blood to be a family. And we have it. Just like our whole staff and team picked me up, we try to pick Matias up as well. We know that you always can’t bring 100 percent each day and that’s why a family will always have each other’s backs.”
After the game, Almeyda admitted nights like Friday’s are helping him, and his family, through a tough time in their lives.
“I just thanked [Wondo], like I did with the whole group,” he said. “They’re covering a part of my life where they’re giving me happiness. All my family celebrates each goal as if I am playing, and they’re lifting me during a difficult time. And with that devotion and willingness all of them give their grain of sand and I really can’t stop thanking them and being proud of them in my name and the name of my family.”
Wondolowski seemed to indicate the coach was not hiding his pain from the team.
“The love is there and we’ll do anything we can to fill that void. We know it’s hard times for him. I can’t imagine, I hope I don’t have to for a long time, but it’s devastating. Our heart’s with him, our love’s with him, but he makes us stronger and I think we make him stronger as well,” he said.
But by no means did Almeyda make the win about himself, which he never does. He knew Wondolowski had something to prove on the field and called him “our legend.”
“Chris gets ready every day with this conviction that he can keep on scoring, and with a positive attitude to support whoever’s turn it is to play, and he gives his soul like I ask of them, every time it’s his turn to come on. He deserves to score these goals because he’s our legend that keeps on scoring.”
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