The San Jose Earthquakes celebrate their win over the Seattle Sounders at Lumen Field in Seattle on Sat Jul 31, 2021 (@SJEarthquakes photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
SEATTLE–It has been a long time coming, but the streak is finally over.
Cristian Espinoza scored in the first minute of extra time in the first half to propel the San Jose Earthquakes to an upset victory over the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field.
That would be all that San Jose needed to snap an 11-game winless steak. They now have points in five straight games and moved into a tie for ninth place with Houston with 17 points. They also snapped a 14-game winless streak against their Western Conference rival. Seattle, atop of the Western Conference with 32 points, have lost two games in a row for the first time all season and back-to-back at home.
“It’s a big joy because we deserved the victory considering the quality of the opponent, Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda said after the victory. “Whenever we played this team, we were always routed. I think we played a really smart game and fortunately we got the win.”
San Jose (4-7-5) earned the game’s first scoring chance in the seventh minute. Shae Salinas serviced a ball over to a wide open Chofis. The Mexican striker’s shot sailed up and high over the net.
Seattle (9-3-5) controlled play in the opening 45 minutes from the 10th minute on. Kelyn Rowe made a nice pass into the middle where Raúl Ruidíaz one-timed a shot that was knocked up and over the net by Quakes goalie JT Marcinkowski.
The Sounders had their best scoring chance in the first half in the 34th minute when Ruidíaz, the league’s leading goal scorer, found a streaking Reed Baker-Whiting inside the box but the 16-year old’s point blank was stopped by Marcinkowski to keep the game scoreless.
“I think I’m just trying to be more present. Just trying to be more in the moment and focus on doing everything well, having a really positive mindset and not letting big things get out of control”, said Marcinkowski.
The Quakes took advantage of a Sounders turnover when Florian Jungwirth, who made a start in the midfield, headed the ball over to Espinoza along the right side. Espinoza dribbled into the D and buried a low line shot through the legs of Xavier Arreaga (as three Sounder defenders converged on Espinoza) to the right corner that beat Sounders goalie Stefan Cleveland for his second goal of the season.
“When the team was losing so many games in a row, there were matches in which they played well. Obviously, the results weren’t what we expected. We believe in hard work, humility, and desire. When you believe in your work and virtue, sooner or later the sun will shine”, Almeyda said.
Despite winning the possession battle 63-37%, Seattle were left frustrated heading into the intermission.
In the second half both teams traded scoring chances in the first 20 minutes.
Sounders midfielder João Paulo’s right footed shot from outside the box was just wide left of the net in the 59th minute.
Chofis had a chance to give the Quakes some insurance but his attempt from 10 yards out was easily handed by Cleveland.
Chris Wondolowki thought he had scored his 167th career MLS goal in the 89th minute when his right footed shot beat Cleveland to the right corner of the net. However after a VAR review the goal was overturned as video showed the Andy Rios did not keep the ball in play when it crossed the sideline out of bounds.
Things got chippy in the final eight minutes of stoppage with each team being issued a yellow card. Joshua Atencio (90+3) and Nathan (90+4) both earned the infraction for hard fouls they committed.
Marcinkowski finished with three saves on the day to earn his second shutout and first victory shutout of the season. Cleveland made one save on two shot attempts in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose only had one corner kick. Seattle had seven.
This was the Quakes first win in Seattle since June 20, 2015. This was also Almeyda’s first win against the Sounders since becoming the head coach in 2018.
The Quakes are now 11-14-8 all-time vs. Seattle Sounders FC, including a 6-10-2 record on the road.
UP NEXT: The Earthquakes travel out to Portland to take on the Timbers on Saturday on Wednesday 8/4 at 7:30pm at Providence Park.