The San Jose Earthquakes aren’t exactly the most glamorous or fanciful team to watch in Major League Soccer. Those plaudits are usually reserved for the likes of New York City FC, their opponents tonight. Yet Dominic Kinnear’s Quakes have scrapped many a point from dogged performances, and back-to-the-walls defending is “their MO,” as former defender Jason Hernandez said.
All of which made it even more disappointing that the Quakes couldn’t capitalize on a bright, vibrant performance against NYCFC at Avaya Stadium on Friday night. Kinnear’s men disrupted New York’s passing game with an intense high press up front and pummeled the Eastern Conference leaders with nineteen shots, their second highest tally of the season.
Yet chance after chance went begging and the Quakes were left unsatisfied with what was tactically one of their more comprehensive smack-downs this year. Quincy Amarikwa, Simon Dawkins and Anibal Godoy all looked sharper than usual and up for the challenge but the final touch just wasn’t there.
“Defensively we were pretty smart, we high-pressed [New York] into some mistakes,” said Kinnear. “We had some good looks and to come out with no goals is a bit surprising.”
New York came out menacingly early on, off the back of a 5-1 triumph over the Colorado Rapids, with Jack Harrison dragging a low effort just wide from the edge of the box. Yet for all the talents that New York’s midfield have in Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, they couldn’t keep up with the incessant pressure that was applied by the Quakes, whose midfielders were a decade younger on average.
Though the high press might have been somewhat unfamiliar to Kinnear’s men early on, the verve with which they executed it didn’t give NYCFC a chance of recovery.
Quincy Amarikwa’s work in the middle nearly opened up the scoring for the Quakes, with the forward digging deep to dispossess Jason Hernandez down the left before breaking in on goal. However, Godoy couldn’t find the target from Amarikwa’s cut-back on the edge of the box.
Just three minutes later, Quintero pounced on a loose ball in the middle and jinxed his way right through the heart of the NYCFC defense, only for Josh Saunders to deny his low shot with a fantastic kick-save. For the Quakes, it felt as if one goal would open up the game and give them an opportunity to jump back into a playoff position with a statement victory. Except that one goal simply would not come.
Saunders again came up with vital block on the half hour mark to keep the Quakes out, sticking out a leg to deny Anibal Godoy from Victor Bernardez’s flick-on. Godoy came close from a free-kick moments later but the ball didn’t bend down in time to trouble Saunders.
Dawkins sliced a volley over the crossbar from distance and Chad Barrett was also denied by a brilliant stop from Saunders. Even captain Chris Wondolowski, renowned for his cool head in front of goal, was uncharacteristically wasteful. He headed wide from Quintero’s cross early in the second half and then skied a golden opportunity from Shea Salinas’ cut-back. He rushed another chance in the sixty-eighth minute, volleying onto the post after the ball deflected into his path right in front of goal, and dallied on the ball too long from Darwin Ceren’s pass in the eighty-third minute, allowing Maxine Chanot the opportunity to recover to make a vital tackle.
They were fine margins, but those nineteen shots added up.
“Ties are good, but we need to do better right now and get some wins and to win games we need to start scoring some goals,” said Kinnear.
“I think I might have said that last week too.”