If only the San Jose Earthquakes could do that more often.
In their vibrant comeback victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night, Dominic Kinnear’s men turned around a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2, their fortitude and verve carving out a victory just as it began to appear impossible.
Homegrown full-back Nick Lima was right in the thick of the action, slotting home the all-important equalizer goal early in the second half from Chris Wondolowski’s layoff. The match was only Lima’s second in Major League Soccer after signing for the Quakes over the offseason, but he has already made an impression upon the home fanbase and quickly become a favorite, greeted by a “Lima Time” banner as he departed the stadium after the match.
The twenty-two-year-old has garnered high praise from teammates, coaches and fans alike, with captain Chris Wondolowski saying: “The work that he’s done on the ball is amazing…he’s going up against Kekuta Manneh, an amazing player, and shutting him down.”
“I’m on the Nick Lima hype train. I’m actually driving it!”
Although the Quakes suffered an abysmal opening twenty minutes, trounced by Vancouver’s brilliant high press, a red card to Vancouver goalkeeper Pat Ousted offered the home side a lifeline. “At that moment we knew that, even though we were down 2-0, it was our game to lose,” said Lima. “We just had to pick up the energy.”
The Quakes began to surge forward in search of a goal to turn things around, and Lima was given specific instructions to get higher up the pitch. Said coach Dominic Kinnear: “I think he’s playing pretty well. Secondly, we are encouraging him to get forward because we think that’s a good part of his game. I think as soon as we went a man up, we were trying to push Nick a little bit higher up the field because we do think he has got good pace and could get by some people and open things up. That’s all we are asking; I don’t think we are asking anything different from him than we are from everybody else. There’s just a little bit of spotlight on him because he’s a young guy and he’s playing well and he scored a nice goal for us.”
Wondolowski pulled one back for the home side late in the second half, setting the stage for Lima to fire home their equalizer, the first-ever goal by a homegrown player for the Quakes, on the other side of the break. “It was great work by Jahmir [Hyka] to get it into Wondo and when I saw Wondo kind of deep and I was charging forward, I called for the ball and knew I had to be ready and keep it on frame,” said Lima.
Anibal Godoy’s long-range winner capped, if I may, a stunning performance in the most brilliant of fashions ten minutes from time, sealing a well-deserved three points from the home side and momentarily taking them top of the table.
For Lima, the Cal Bears graduate, a goalscoring performance is the latest step in a promising start to his professional career, having shut down the Montreal Impact’s Ignacio Piatti last weekend, earning high praise.
“Coming [into the season], guys said there is media when you do well, but I’m just trying to keep my head down and get to work every day,” he said. “It’s fun, you get to play soccer for a living! That’s what’s most important to me.”