When Quakes General Manager Jesse Fioranelli speaks of “maturing a sense of certainty when we go onto the field and imposing our game,” the Swiss GM’s vision may be somewhat lost in translation.
Yet after tonight’s assertive 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the US Open Cup, it is a little clearer what Fioranelli meant. The Quakes bossed in their first-ever victory over MLS opposition in the Open Cup, booking their first Quarterfinal berth in the competition since 2012.
Shea Salinas’ strike opened an early lead for the Quakes and despite Aaron Kovar’s surprise second-half equalizer, Danny Hoesen’s late goal sealed the victory for new head coach Chris Leitch in his first-ever managerial outing.
“In the first half we imposed ourselves, for sure,” said nLeitch. “I think we can do it for longer stretches than what we showed in the second half but after every game you’re going to be nitpicky here and there. I thought there was some really, really, really good stuff in there.”
Leitch’s managerial temperament was under the microscope in his first Quakes match, including his sharp touchline attire, but the team’s steady performance eased the pressure.
The former Quakes defender set the team up in a 3-5-2, a formation occasionally employed as an attacking kickstart by Kinnear, and utilized their somewhat lopsided lineup to sew havoc through the Seattle defense. Anibal Godoy’s unusually deep role gave Jahmir Hyka and Jackson Yeuill license to roam the midfield, with Tommy Thompson also stationed up front as a sort of nimble hold-up forward.
The formation changes achieved their desired effect as the Quakes exploited huge pockets of space in a dominant first half. Leitch was off his touchline seat within a minute. There was a vigor to their play, driven by the pressure of knockout competition and, not inconsequentially, the desire to impress their new gaffer. The Quales play was accompanied by a certain composure to their intricate patterns of passing, consistent with their weekend performance against RSL.
Salinas made his case with a goal just six minutes into his first start since April, reacting quickest to a half-cleared set piece to volley the ball home with the help of a massive deflection. The Quakes continued to probe Seattle’s sloppy defense as an unmarked Wondolowski headed Yeuill’s cross over the bar and Thompson dragging a low effort inches wide.
Yeuill also tested goalkeeper Tyler Miller and Salinas should have had another goal from Kip Colvey’’s cross but the final touch was evasive, for all their possession.
Francisco Narbón’s rash, studs-up red card late in the first half clearly altered the dynamic of the game, though not immediately in the Quakes’ favor.
Leitch’s men struggled with their final pass throughout the match, and Aaron Kovar’s gorgeous twenty-five yard free-kick stunned the home crowd less than three minutes into the second half. However, Leitch’s first and only substitute until the ninetieth minute, Danny Hoesen, had an all-important impact with a neat touch inside the box to deliver the winning goal in the eighty-fourth minute.