Photo credit: @SJEarthquakes
By Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a game that was dominated from start to finish, led by Georgian striker Vako, the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Houston Dynamo with a convincing 2-0 win on Wednesday evening at Avaya Stadium.
Vako put on a clinic out on the pitch for San Jose, whose unbeaten streak was extended to five games (4-0-1), scoring twice and had opportunities to score more than two as Houston had no answer in trying to stop him.
San Jose continued their transformation since starting the season 0-4 and have jumped to sixth place in the Western Conference that even has surprised head coach Matias Almeyda.
“I knew it was going to take a while,” said Almeyda. “I even thought it would take a little bit longer. The start was completely negative. But it’s day to day and we have to keep insisting on improving. This is one of the team’s that has the lowest payroll in the league and watching them compete at this level makes me proud.”
The Quakes (6-6-4) drew first blood halfway through the first half. Magnus Eriksson centered a pass that split two Dynamo defenders from along the right side of the goal-line to an unmarked Vako, who one-timed a chip shot past Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis for his first goal of the game and second goal of the season in the 22nd minute.
The Quakes controlled the tempo and play in the first half as they kept the Dynamo on their heels with the majority of the possession (61%-39%) being played in the Houston’s defensive zone in the opening 45 minutes.
“Really growing that belief,” said Wondo. “It’s a funny thing, confidence. We’ve bought into Matias’ game plan and when you execute it in the right way it’s very effective. It’s a lot of fun.”
In the second half, San Jose kept the pedal to the metal as they dominated play and were constantly in Houston’s end of the pitch getting six quality scoring chances in the first 20 minutes.
When Vako wasn’t scoring, he was setting up his teammates, including captain Chris Wondolowski. Vako centered a pass over to a wide-open Wondo, who was robbed from six yards out by Willis’ great two-handed save to keep the ball out of the net.
“It would’ve been very easy for him to just throw in town,” said Wondo regarding the play of Vako, who had struggled earlier on in the season. “But he’s (done) the opposite. As you saw tonight, he’s a very great player.”
Jackson Yueill led a three-on-one attack after stripping the ball off a Houston defender from 30 yards out, but his shot sailed wide of the mark in the 69th minute.
Houston (7-5-3) could not muster much of a counter attack against San Jose. An errant pass here, a turnover there was the story of the night for the fifth place Dynamo. Their poor offensive play was the catalyst for the quick counters by the Quakes that led to their numerous scoring chances.
San Jose doubled their lead in the 75th minute when Vako scored his second tally of the evening and third goal of the season when collected a rebound inside the box, dribbled five yard into the middle and rifled a shot past Willis to put the home team comfortably ahead.
“I’m just trying to stay focus and keep going,” said Vako. “I’m just happy I had some chances and I used it.”
GAME NOTES: Quakes defender Anibal Godoy underwent surgery on Tuesday to remove scar tissue from his abdomen that was impairing his bilateral nerves. He is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
Quakes forward Danny Hoesen missed the game with an upper thigh injury.
Defenders Nick Lima (USA) and Harold Cummings (Panama) were away on international duty for their respective countries participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Houston’s Ronaldo Pena received a yellow card in the 17th minute for displaying unsportsmanlike conduct. AJ Delagarza Jr. also received a yellow card in the 57th minute on a low tackle attempt.
San Jose leads the overall series 7-4-2.
UP NEXT: The Quakes host the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, June 29 in the annual California Clasico at Stanford Stadium at 6:30 pm.