Austin FC goalie Austin Stuver gathers his thoughts after surrendering three unanswered goals to the San Jose Earthquakes at Q2 Stadium in Austin on Sat Sep 18, 2021 (AP News photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
AUSTIN, Texas—Minus their head coach, the San Jose Earthquakes flipped the script on their opponent just three days later after blowing a lead in the second half.
Down by a two-goal margin, the Quakes scored three unanswered goals in the second half for a 4-3 comeback victory over the expansion Austin FC on Saturday evening at Q2 Stadium.
San Jose are now 2-2-1 in their last five games. Austin FC have lost their last five matches in a row. With the win, the Quakes jumped from 11th to ninth place in the Western Conference. They sit just three points out of the seventh and final playoff spot with 30 points.
It was San Jose’s first win over the new expansion team. They are 1-0-1 in two matches this season against Austin FC.
Austin FC (5-16-4-19 points) didn’t look like the worst team in MLS as they jumped out of the gate early with the match’s first goal six minutes into the match.
Sebastian Driussi cleaned up a rebound off a header by Moussa Djitte that Quakes goalie JT Marcinkowski saved but wasn’t able to keep the ball out of Driussi’s reach as the center forward buried the ball into the back of the net for his third goal of the season.
San Jose (7-9-9-30 points) answered back in the 17th minute off a corner kick. Carlos Fierro centered the ball back to the middle where a running Marco Lopez from 12 yards outs powered in a header past the reach of Austin FC goalie Brad Stuver for his first goal of the season.
Austin FC played aggressive and attacked the Quakes as they scored two goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
A nice give and go between Alexander Ring and Daniel Pereira led to Ring finding Jon Gallagher all alone on the right side as the midfielder tapped home the ball into an empty net for his third goal of the season in the 35th minute.
Right before halftime Ring capitalized on the Quakes relaxed defense. He received the ball just into the attacking zone when he dribbled in and fired a shot from 25 yards out into the lower left corner of the net beating Marcinkowski for his fourth goal of the season.
San Jose, who were without head coach Matias Almeyda as he was serving a one-game suspension for un-sportsman like conduct he directed toward the officials in the match against Real Salt Lake, responded with a bang once the whistle blew to begin the second half.
Lopez serviced a ball from the left sideline into the middle where Benji Kikanovic made a brilliant one-time touch pass to the left to free Espinoza, who got behind the Austin FC defense before he fired a right-footed shot past Stuver into the lower right corner for his third goal of the season in the 49th minute.
The Quakes received a break when Ring was whistled for hand ball inside the box after a VAR review, resulting in a penalty kick for the visiting team in the 56th minute.
Two minutes later, Chofis, who had a hatrick in his last match, converted the penalty with a left-footed shot just inside the right post for his team leading ninth goal of the season.
Chofis wasn’t done, as he answered the bell again just five minutes later to give the Quakes their first lead of the match in the 63rd minute. A bouncing ball found Chofis in the attacking zone. He fired a shot from long range that Stuver punched back out. Chofis picked up his own rebound between three Austin FC defenders, faked a move right then went left before lasering in a shot past Stuver for his 10th goal of the season.
Choifis has been played like a man possessed in the past two matches with five goals.
“”I am very happy for him,” said Almeyda about his foward’s recent success. “There was great sacrifice in getting him to San Jose and reaching the level he is currently at after going a year and a half without playing. He changed the way he trains and lives football, including his professionalism and calmness. When I see him progressing in the sport, it makes me very pleased because he is progressing in life, and no one talks about that.”
Ring received his second yellow card of the match and an automatic red card when he made a hard tackle foul on Eric Remedi in the 65th minute. Ring will be suspended for the next match.
Despite being down a man for the final 35, plus nine minutes of stoppage time, Austin FC controlled the play of the rest of the match with numerous scoring chances and corner kicks in the final 15 minutes of play. However, the Quakes defense anchored down led by saves from Marcinkowksi to escape the Lone Star state with three points in the end.
“Resiliency is a great word,” said Marcinkowski when being asked how the team have been resilient this season. “I think it’s something we always talk about in our locker room. The belief and fight and just the will to win. I think we’ve been in so many close games this year and I think we’ve been a little bit hesitant or have been missing the final pass or final goal, or final save from me. I think we showed tonight that we can do it and have nine games left to show it and show the rest of the league that we’re a team to really watch out for.”
Marcinkowski finished the match with seven saves on 10 shot on target to earn his seventh win of the season. Stuver made four saves on eight shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: Each team conceded eight corner kicks to each other.
The Quakes are now unbeaten in eight consecutive road matches, the longest such run in club history (2003).
San Jose’s last two matches have resulted in 14 total goals (for and against), the most in consecutive matches in club history.
Lopez now has three goals in his MLS career. His goal also marks the first goal against Austin FC in Earthquakes history.
Fierro’s assist on Lopez’s goal, marked his third assist of the season and 10th of his MLS career.
Chofis became the first Quakes player to score 5+ goals in a two-game span since Chris Wondolowski tallied six from May 18, 2019 (4) to May 26, 2019 (2).
Kikanovic’s assist on Espinoza’s goal, marked his first assist of the season and of his MLS career. The match also marked his second MLS start.
Defender Tommy Thompson started and played 68 minutes. It marked his first appearance since June 22.
UP NEXT: San Jose returns home to host LAFC on Saturday 9/25 at 7:00pm at Pal Pay Park.