Alberto Quintero is only on a year-long loan at the San Jose Earthquakes from Mexican second division side BUAP, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. The Panamanian midfielder has had a nomadic career spanning Spain, Columbia, Panama and Mexico, having bounced between ten different clubs in the last eight years.
But when he earned a move to the Quakes over the offseason, with a young daughter — whom he dedicates by wearing the number nineteen on the pitch, the date of her birth — Quintero was determined to finally settle down in San Jose and hopes to stay with the club for “a long time.”
How quickly he has done just that. The twenty-eight-year-old has appeared in every one of the Quakes’ ten games so far this season, starting nine. Tonight, he led the team to a wonderfully strange, 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo at Avaya Stadium, having a direct hand in all three goals.
Speaking to reporters after the match, displaying his cheerful, bubbly disposition, Quintero spoke fondly of his relationship with midfielder Anibal Godoy, his fellow Panamanian countryman.
Although Godoy, a tall, reserved central midfielder, could hardly be a more different personality and player, the two have developed a special connection in San Jose, accounting for all three of the Quakes’ goals on the night.
As opposed an uninspiring loss to the Seattle Sounders last weekend and draw against the Philadelphia Union the week before, in which the Quakes started on the back foot and had to claw their way back into the match, this was a much more proactive performance from the home side.
Advocates for coach Kinnear to start big-guns Matias Perez-Garcia, Simon Dawkins and Quintero together were vindicated by a lively, dominant performance from the Quakes; never has their build-up been so sophisticated, with Garcia and Quintero weaving intricate passings and darting runs through Houston’s overwhelmed defense.
The Quakes had a bright start and Quintero’s early goal completely blind-sighted Houston, who are winless on the road this season. Dawkins dropped into the middle and slid the ball wide right to Chris Wondolowski, who crossed into the middle for Quintero. The Panamanian midfielder scuffed his first-time shot, but the ball took an unlikely bounce off his back foot and looped into the back of the net past Tyler Deric.
Kinnear’s men nearly doubled their lead just four minutes later as Godoy won a deep free-kick in the middle of the park and Garca floated it to the far post, where Shaun Francis rose up to head the ball. For a moment, the ball seemed to be looping over Deric and into the back of the net, but landed harmlessly on the roof of the net.
The Quakes came close again as Matias jinxed down the left and crossed back to Quintero on the edge of the area. The Panamanian curled a low effort just wide from twenty-five yards and soon after, Alashe dragged a low effort wide from twenty-five yards.
Yet the Quakes became increasingly direct as the half wore on and couldn’t find Dawkins enough.
Frustratingly, they let their guard down just two minutes before the half as Garcia got caught out on a quick free-kick down the right. David Bingham did well to parry Agus Garcia’s shot from Jalil Anibaba’s cross, yet Ricardo Clark stepped up to the rebound a full thirty yards and rifled a thundering volley through the crowded box and into the top right corner of the net.
Nevertheless, the Quakes were confident going into the lead and the possession statistics mirrored their dominance. Kinnear made only one change at halftime: switching Quintero with Garcia to the left wing. It seemed a relatively innocuous decision at the time, but how influential it proved to be.
Although the Quakes’ left wing was relatively barren in the first half, with Garcia cutting into the middle, it was a hive of activity in the second period. Dawkins crossed for Kofi Sarkodie’s great chance at the far post just fifty minutes in, and Quintero set up Godoy to put the Quakes roaring ahead in the fiftieth minute. Godoy drove down the channel, and Garcia played it to Quintero, who found Godoy’s run with a neat through pass. The twenty-six-year-old burst into the box and coolly tucked a low finish past Deric.
Houston were in desperate need for some energy and Coyle made the drastic decision to make a triple sub. “If I had more subs, I would have made them,” said the manager.
How terribly it backfired, though.
San Jose found their third goal soon afterward, with Dawkins finding space down the right and pulling the ball back to Wondo. Although Wondo was denied on the turn, he slipped the ball in for Quintero to finish from close range.
The Quakes poured forward and in the seventy-ninth minute, Dawkins broke in on a quick counter-attack. Deric ventured outside his box to meet the Jamaican midfielder, only to completely miss the ball and then cynically pull Dawkins down. It was the most blatant of red cards for referee Jamie Herrera, on his first MLS assignment in the middle, and Anibaba, who played goalkeeper as a kid in middle-school, volunteered to step into goal.
With just ten minutes to go, it mattered naught, but to the delight of the home crowd, Anibaba actually made a stellar save to deny Chad Barrett, who burst in down the left and saw his low effort deflect wide off of Anibaba’s inner thigh.
Surprisingly, Houston had the better of the chances in the dying minutes, and Torres drove a low effort wide. But the game had effectively been over long before the final whistle and the Quakes, with Quintero leading their lines, have never looked more comfortable in a long time.