Quakes Talk’s resident photographer has covered every home match since the team’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids last August, and in that time hadn’t once shot a game with more than one Quakes goal. Indeed, the last time the home side scored more than a single goal in an MLS match at Avaya was in a 2-0 win over Columbus nearly 300 days ago.
Today’s season opener against the Colorado Rapids stayed consistent with this trend — the Quakes placed 17th in goals-scored last year — yet Chris Wondolowski’s well-executed header and a strong defensive showing were enough to give the side a tight, 1-0 victory.
The Quakes’ newest additions Kip Colvey and Alberto Quintero both impressed on their MLS debuts, but the Rapids had the majority of possession and arguably the better of the chances.
The Rapids had eighteen shots to the Quakes’ seven, but the home side took their chances.
Amarikwa was a pitbull up front, engaging in multiple spats with S’Jöberg, giving Wondo the freedom to roam the back line and find pockets of space in between the centerbacks. By contrast, the Quakes’ midfield was more subdued, with most of their attacks being funneled down the wings.
“On the season opener, there’s a lot of excitement and a little bit of jitters too,” said Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski. Everyone wants to go 100-miles-an-hour…you want to win in the first minute.”
The opening fifteen minutes were scrappy, as to be expected of a season opener, and even David Bingham looked a little nervous in goal, dropping a few early crosses.
Amarikwa drove in behind the Colorado back-line down the right ten minutes in, but didn’t have the confidence on his left foot to cut inside and whip in a shot. Instead, he dallied on the ball and Jared Watts made an excellent tackle from behind to poke the ball away from the forward.
Sam Cronin broke down the right side of the box on twelve minutes and powered a low effort towards the near post, which Bingham awkwardly blocked with his legs. Kevin Doyle came close with two twenty-five yard efforts in short succession towards the end of the first half but Bingham watched the first effort arrow narrowly over and comfortably dealt with the low, second shot as his control of the match grew.
At the other end of the pitch, the Quakes’ first shot on target game in the forty-fourth minute in the form of a harmless curling effort from twenty-five yards off the boot of Shea Salinas.
Dominic Kinnear brought Kip Colvey on for Shaun Francis, who was forced off due to a left thigh strain, and the youngster combined well with Salinas, his pace and eagerness to get forward shifting the balance of play for the Quakes towards the left wing. The Kiwi wasn’t even present in the club’s match day program, having only officially joined the Quakes on Friday, but his performance pleasantly surprised Kinnear.
“Kip had a good game,” Kinnear told Quakes Talk. “I didn’t think in the first day of preseason that I’d be putting Kip Colvey in during the opening game…but he has shown confidence. If he continues to play like today, we’re really happy.”
At halftime, the Quakes wanted to calm their early jitters. “We wanted to take it too them a bit more,” said Simon Dawkins. “The first half felt more like a season opener game, both sides were a bit anxious.
Before either side had a chance to settle into the second half, Wondo grabbed the opener, peeling off of his marker to find a pocket of space to head Quintero’s lovely chipped ball into the box past Zac Macmath and into the top right corner of the net.
The Quakes sat back after the goal and soaked up pressure, with the majority of their attacking forays coming from Salinas and Colvey. The pair combined in the seventieth minute and Shea cut into the middle from the right and curled a near-post cross into the box for Wondo, whose diving header was only barely blocked by Macmath.
The Rapids began to apply pressure up front, and Dillon Powers got in behind Dawkins down the right side of the box to drive a low cross to the near post, which Watts bundled just wide of goal. Badji forced Bingham into an excellent low save and Goodson threw himself in front of Doyle’s follow-up as Colorado began to push for an equalizer.
Marco Pappa’s introduction forced the Quakes even deeper into their own territory and the Guatemalan forward curled a twenty-five yard free-kick inches wide of the right-hand post with ten minutes to go.
Tommy Thompson, who came on as a late substitute, nearly put the game to bed with a left-footed effort on the break, but Macmath blocked the shot with a strong right arm.
Eric Miller smashed an absolute corker towards the top right corner of the net at the other end of the pitch and Bingham only just tipped the ball over at full stretch. Badji also skied a half-volley and Pappa saw a header deflected off of Goodson, onto the post and wide in the final moments of the game. It was scrappy, and at times desperate at the back, but nevertheless a solid win for the Quakes to kick off the MLS season. It is the club’s first win on their season opener since 2012, which could bode well for Kinnear’s men.