Ninety minutes into the 2017 season and the San Jose Earthquakes have already made history, of sorts. The Quakes defeated the Montreal Impact for the first time ever in a comfortable 1-0 victory at Avaya Stadium on Saturday night, having drawn twice and lost three times in their five previous meetings with the Canadian side.
With the exception of a little offseason rust, the Quakes never looked troubled in a dominant victory, preventing Montreal from taking even a single shot on target. Anibal Godoy’s cheeky first-half finish gave Dominic Kinnear’s men an early lead and they cruised to a finish to a convincing victory after Hassoun Camara’s red card reduced the visitors to ten men.
The Quakes home side came out strong in the opening fifteen minutes, operating a tight press in order to isolate Montreal’s fullbacks and launch on the break. Chris Wondolowski threatened early on with a dangerous header from Tommy Thompson’s cross looping narrowly over the crossbar and the home side’s patience paid off in the seventeenth minute as Godoy’s cheeky finish gave the Quakes an early lead.
The Panamanian international intercepted an errant pass from centerback Camara into the middle and played it into Wondo, who, in turn, found Godoy’s overlapping run in behind. Evan Bush was quick off his line to stop the play, but a lovely chip from Godoy looped over the hapless goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The press paid further dividends in the thirty-first minute as Godoy robbed Laurent Ciman in the middle and found Thompson at the end of a jinxing run. Although the homegrown midfielder’s shot was a comfortable parry for Bush, they were promising signs from the home side.
Homegrown full-back Nick Lima was particularly active on the overlap, offering Thompson the license to drop into the middle and join the build-up play. The midfielder nearly set up Ureña for a second goal in the forty-first minute after switching wings, but Montreal’s center-backs managed to throw the Costa Rican off balance at the very last second and his low effort bobbled inches wide.
Ureña played a pivotal role in keeping the Montreal back line on their toes, working tirelessly to chase down their centerbacks in possession. The home side continued to press high up the pitch into the second half and Lima came inches away with a twenty-yard curler in the forty-sixth minute, then volleyed over from a similar distance. Thomspon carved a foot of space in the box with silky foot-work soon after, but could only fire straight at Bush with a curling shot.
The Quakes trounced Montreal’s veteran attacking line with an outstanding defensive display, with Lima especially impressive in stifling Ignacio Piatti in his MLS debut. Marco Donadel curled a dangerous low free-kick into the side netting in the forty-ninth minute but a self-inflicted wound squashed Montreal’s comeback hopes as Camara was dealt a second yellow for a late challenge on Godoy.
The Quakes brought on Shea Salinas and Jahmir Hyka for Thompson and Dawkins in response, the sort of attacking substitution that would have been a distant dream last season. Ureña was also afforded a second-half substitute a few minutes later, replaced by Danny Hoesen. The substitutes led the charge for another goal to put the game to bed, with Salinas dragging a low effort inches wide of the goal and Wondolowski sidefooting a low effort wide from Hyka’s cross.
Although Montreal held the scoreline at a modest 1-0, the fashion in which the Quakes dominated the proceedings is far more promising than their countless 1-0 victories of seasons past. Although Kinnear was, typically, reluctant to get ahead of himself after just one match in his post-match press conference, president Dave Kaval was on hand to wax lyrical about the “exciting” new season ahead, saying: “this is exactly what we were hoping for when we brought Jesse [Fioranelli] as our general manager: a team with an attacking identity that’s fun to watch.”