Kaval's Kickoff: Historical start to 2012 season
Now that was one hell of a win this weekend! Not only did the Quakes erupt for three unanswered goals in an impressive, character-building win, but also established a new mark for the best start in club history. That is correct. This is the best start in franchise history. That may be hard to believe for some of the hardcores who remember the glory years of Landon Donovan, Jeff Agoos, and Ronald Cerritos, but it’s the truth. Our next-best effort to open a season was 2003 when the boys picked up 11 points from their first five games.
We will need those points this year as we are competing in possibly the toughest and most stacked division in the history of Major League Soccer. The nice thing is that we have been able to establish some early season mojo while making statements by beating Sounders FC on their home pitch and showing the determination and resolve to come from behind.
I think my two favorite memories from the match this weekend were the unreal Alan Gordon header to give us the lead in the 68 minute – he totally gave up his body for that diving header – and the awesome display of post-goal hugs by Victor Bernardez. I mean Big Vic is absolutely the best outside of Serie A in terms of post-goal celebration hugs. He always seems to emerge from nowhere and start laying huge hugs on goal scorers, assist makers and even assistant coaches. This is the kind of team leadership that we need. These guys are so motivated as a group to succeed and you can see it in how they pick each other up in difficult moments as well as when we score a goal.
The other thing about Big Vic is that he continues to reinforce his position as the best central defender in MLS. The guy is a total force on the pitch. He had his hands full with the larger-than-life Eric Hassli, but he was able to stay aggressive and limit the big French strikers chances. The best display of pure defense was when he sacrificed his body to prevent a goal before halftime after Jon Busch was in front of the ball and the Caps had an open net to score. Big Vic placed his body squarely in the way of a sure fire goal and paid the price with a full speed shot right into his gut. This guy will do anything to win and exemplifies the spirit and passion of the 2012 San Jose Earthquakes.
How could I comment on the match without mentioning another magical performance by Chris Wondolowski. From the Hunger Games inspired bow and arrow goal celebration to the combination of strength and poise to hold off ‘Caps defender Jay DeMerrit while flicking a ball over Joe Cannon for the equalizing goal, Wondo did it all. It was nice to see how Chris was able to stay patient and get through the part of the match when we had less chances so that he could pounce like a puma all over Vancouver and their dreams of stealing three points at Buck Shaw.
Finally, I was really impressed with Frank Yallop's coaching performance. I think he had a great read on the game and made some spectacular substitutions that carried the day. It is so nice to have a two-time MLS Cup champion coach to lead our boys.
As everyone knows, Saturday is a huge showdown in the Big Apple between the Quakes and the New York Red Bulls at 4 p.m. PT. The top three scorers in MLS will be on the pitch in Wondolowski, Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry. The Red Bulls have been pummeling teams lately and the Quakes are on a collision course with the male bovines. The match is a huge early season test and maybe even an MLS Cup preview.
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