San Jose Earthquakes shutout LAFC at Pay Pal Park in San Jose on Sat Sep 25, 2021 (image from google.com)
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE—In what felt like a playoff type of atmosphere, the San Jose Earthquakes took down LAFC in a 2-0 shutout victory on Saturday evening at Pay Pal Park.
San Jose has won two matches in a row. LAFC have lost two matches in a row. The Quakes are now in a three-way tied for eighth place in the Western Conference with LAFC and Vancouver with 33 points. All three are chasing Real Salt Lake, who have 36 points, for seventh and the final playoff spot in the conference.
LAFC (9-11-6-33 points) were without two of their best players. Carlos Vela was out due a to hamstring injury he suffered back on August 22nd. Diego Rossi has been on loan to Turkish club Fenerbahçe since September 1st.
San Jose (8-9-9-33 points) drew first blood early in the match. A giveaway by LAFC led to a counter attack led by Chofis. The reigning MLS player of the week slipped in a nice pass between two LAFC defenders over to Benji Kikanovic. The 21-year old native of San Jose went around LAFC goalie Tomás Romero before depositing the ball into an empty for his second goal of the season in the third minute.
“I think Benji is one of the young players that is learning day-by-day,” said Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda. “He has perfectly understood the identity we want the players to have at San Jose. He is a player with pace, he is good in the aerial game and has great technique. He really works a lot for the team. He was able to put away the chance that came from a great pass from Chofis. He also worked hard in the defensive phase. I am really pleased when the young players perform well. It makes me happy for them and for the club.”
LAFC’s best chance to score in the first half was in the 23rd minute when Jose Cifuentes had an open shot from 15 yard outs, but Quakes middle back Nathan deflected the ball out of danger with his right foot.
Quakes midfielder Cristian Espinoza was apparently tripped down inside the box in the 34th minute. Instead of receiving a penalty kick on the play, Referee Jair Marrufo issued a yellow card to Espinoza for what only Marrufo thought was a dive by Espinoza.
San Jose doubled its lead right out of the gate to start the second half. Marco Lopez won a ball on the left side along the end line. He serviced the ball into the middle where Chofis fired a one-timer from 10 yards out past Romero for his team leading 11th goal of the season in the 47th minute.
“I think there are still a lot of games left,” said captain Jackson Yuiell. “It’s still really close and these two games were important for us. We’ve narrowed down to the last third of the season. We learned from our first year to last year of when to push and when to hit our stride.”
Chofis has six goals in his last three games as the Mexican national has taken the team on his back and is carrying them closer to a playoff berth.
The Quakes had a chance to put the nail in the coffin in the 55th minute. Lopez serviced a ball from left to right where Eric Remedi’s header hit off the right corner off the post.
After making a round of substitutions early in the second half, LAFC gained some momentum with two quality scoring chances.
In the 57th minute, Cristian Arango headed a pass into the middle where Danny Musovski’s right footed shot sailed wide right.
Then in the 69th minute, Cifuentes serviced ball into the middle of the box that Raheem Edwards crashed in from the right side but his left footed shot hit off the crossbar and over for a goal kick.
San Jose’s defense held down the fort in the final 30 minutes as they did not allow LAFC to get a quality chance .
Quakes goalie JT Marcinkowski finished the night with three saves to earn his eighth victory and fourth shutout of the season. Romero didn’t register a save on the two shots on target in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose finished with no corner kicks on the evening. LAFC had three corner kicks.
San Jose is 4-0-0 in its last four matches versus LAFC and are 4-5-0 all-time, including a 3-2-0 record at home.
Chofis became the first Earthquakes player to score in three straight matches since Vako in July 2019. His assist on Kikanovic’s goal, marking his third assist of the season and first game-winning assist.
Midfielder Shea Salinas entered the match as a substitute in the 82nd minute, marking his first appearance since Sept. 4 against the Colorado Rapids.
Lopez, Nathan and Luciano Abecasis were also issued yellow cards during the match.
UP NEXT: The Quakes host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday 9/29 at 7:30pm at Pay Pal Park.