SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes qualified for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in three years after drawing 1-1 with Austin FC on Saturday night at PayPal Park.
The Quakes opened the scoring in the 17th minute from forward Cristian Espinoza. A crucial interception from Jeremy Ebobisse set up Espinoza to fire his shot into the bottom corner. Austin would find the equalizer in the 32nd minute to finish the first half 1-1. The Quakes would outshoot their opponent 20 to four and hold onto the point to earn a playoff berth.
The Earthquakes will now prepare for their first playoff match against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Kickoff from Children’s Mercy Park is slated for 6:30 p.m. PT and will be streamed globally on MLS Season Pass (Apple TV), as well as on local radio via 810 AM The Spread (English) and 1370 KZSF (Spanish).
The Earthquakes have qualified for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2020.
The Earthquakes finish the 2023 MLS regular season with a 10-10-13 record (43 pts), sitting in ninth place in the 14-team Western Conference.
The Quakes now hold a 2-0-5 record against Austin FC, including a 1-0-2 record on the road. They have never lost to Austin FC in six MLS matches.
Cristian Espinoza netted the first goal of the game for his 13th goal of the season. Espinoza now has 26 goal contributions (13g, 13a), contributing to 66.7% of the Earthquakes’ total goals this season (39). This percentage of involvement ranks first in club history and ties for first in the league this season. Espinoza is now also tied with teammate Jeremy Ebobisse for fourth most goals in club history.
Jeremy Ebobisse tallied his fourth assist of the season and 16th of his MLS career.
San Jose Earthquakes 1 – 1 Austin FC
Saturday, October 21, 2023 – PayPal Park; San Jose, Calif.
Attendance: 18,000 (sellout)
Man of the Match: Cristian Espinoza
SJ (1-0) – Cristian Espinoza (Jeremy Ebobisse) 17’
ATX (1-1) – Owen Wolff (Nick Lima, Sebastian Drussi) 32’
SJ – Niko Tsakiris (caution) 22’
ATX – Jhojan Valencia (caution) 66’
SJ – Cristian Espinoza (caution) 72’
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Daniel; Miguel Trauco (Paul Marie 57’), Jonathan Mensah, Rodrigues, Carlos Akapo; Jackson Yueill (C), Niko Tsakiris (Carlos Gruezo 57’), Matthew Hoppe; Cristian Espinoza, Jeremy Ebobisse (Tommy Thompson 88’), Cade Cowell (Jamiro Monteiro 57’).
Substitutes not used: Emi Ochoa (GK), Ayo Akinola, Tanner Beason, Judson, Jack Skahan.
SHOTS: 20; SHOTS ON GOAL: 7; FOULS: 4; CORNER KICKS: 15; SAVES: 0
AUSTIN FC: Brad Stuver; Leo Vaisanen, Jon Gallagher (Adam Lundkvist 69’), Julio Cascante, Nick Lima; Jhojan Valencia (Dani Pereira 78’), Alex Ring, Owen Wolff (Will Bruin 78’); Emiliano Rigoni, Sebastian Driussi (C) (Memo Rodriguez 86’), Ethan Finlay (Matt Hedges 69’).
Substitutes not used: Matt Bersano (GK), Brendan Craig, Hector Jimenez, Gyasi Zardes.
SHOTS: 4; SHOTS ON GOAL: 1; FOULS: 5; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 7
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES HEAD COACH LUCHI GONZALEZ
On the team’s work tonight:
“We are not over-celebrating anything. We were unlucky not to score, but I’m proud of my guys to push it and show a winning mentality and winning actions. Being over the [playoff] line is a great validation to the team, the staff, and the fans’ hard work and desire to get better. I see a lot of progress. We want to take it to the next step, and we have the opportunity. This is a league where there are always upsets in playoffs and we need to answer the question now of whether we want to be one of those teams.”
On the expectations vs. Sporting Kansas City:
“There is a lot more potential in us. I believe in this group and this foundation of players, and I believe that we can be one of those teams that other teams don’t want to play against. You go in that locker room; that’s a hungry group of players. We have more ambition. This is a really united group, and I am hopeful that we will have a quick recovery for Kansas. Sporting Kansas City is a good team. They are very well coached. They have an intense environment. This is going to be a battle, but it is also one that we are not afraid of.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES FORWARD CRISTIAN ESPINOZA
On what clinching the playoff spot means for the fans:
“It’s amazing. It’s amazing. The fans have been supporting us the entire season, and us on being on the field, we really feel the support. That’s been so important for us, and it was an important year for me personally, too. We wanted to win the game for the fans and finish higher in the table, but what’s important is that we qualified for the playoffs.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES MIDFIELDER JACKSON YUEILL
On qualifying for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs:
“We said it at the beginning of preseason that this is what we wanted to do. This is where we wanted to be. You could see a lot of fight especially during this game. I’m proud of the guys for what they did. We knew we had to be aggressive and go for it right away. We pushed the game, and it was a draw but we’re ready for playoffs and we’ll see. We’re excited for Wednesday. We regroup tomorrow, get ready to go Monday Tuesday and battle on Wednesday.”