SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 in a critical match on Saturday night at PayPal Park. Jeremy Ebobisse scored the club’s fastest goal of the season and Rodrigues doubled the lead as the Quakes earned a crucial win in their playoff push. Cristian Espinoza continued his MVP form with assists on both goals.
The Quakes opened the scoring in just the second minute of the match from Ebobisse, who scored the quickest goal of his career. A perfectly-timed through ball from Espinoza connected with Ebobisse and he slotted a right-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net.
San Jose would double their lead in the 15th minute from Rodrigues, who successfully redirected a cross from Espinoza to score his first career MLS goal.
Real Salt Lake would pull one back to end the first half 2-1. Despite chances for both sides in the second half, San Jose walked away with the three points that pulled them just three points from second place in the Western Conference.
The Earthquakes will prepare for two matches next week, first facing the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Kickoff from Providence Park is slated for 7:30 p.m. PT and will be streamed globally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app, as well as on local radio via 810 AM The Spread (English) and 1370 KZSF (Spanish). San Jose then returns home to host Nashville SC at PayPal Park at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Cristian Espinoza notched two assists Saturday night to reach double digits in assists for the third time in his MLS career. He also has 12 goals on the season and is now the first Quakes player since 1998 to record double digits in both goals and assists in the same season. He is the all-time leader in assists in Quakes history with 54. He is one of the top contenders for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award this year.
The Earthquakes now hold an 10-9-10 record (40 pts.) during the 2023 MLS regular season and currently sit tied for fifth place in the 14-team Western Conference, but only three points from second place.
The Quakes now holds a 15-14-12 record against Real Salt Lake, including a 10-6-5 record at home.
San Jose has only lost two of its 15 MLS home matches this season (8-2-5).
Forward Jeremy Ebobisse scored his ninth goal of the season and 53rd of his MLS career. Ebobisse’s goal was the fastest of his MLS career and fastest for the club this season. San Jose has scored 16 goals inside two minutes in club history.
Defender Rodrigues scored his first goal of the season and of his MLS career.
San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 1 Real Salt Lake
Saturday, September 16, 2023 – PayPal Park, San Jose, Calif.
Man of the Match: Cristian Espinoza
SJ (1-0) – Jeremy Ebobisse (Cristian Espinoza) 2’
SJ (2-0) – Rodrigues (Cristian Espinoza) 15’
RSL (2-1) – Chicho Arango 44’
RSL – Brayan Vera (caution) 13’
RSL – Chicho Arango (caution) 69’
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Daniel; Miguel Trauco, Jonathan Mensah, Rodrigues, Carlos Akapo; Jackson Yueill (C), Niko Tsakiris (Judson 78’), Jamiro Monteiro (Daniel Munie 90+3’), Cade Cowell (Paul Marie 64’), Cristian Espinoza, Jeremy Ebobisse (Ayo Akinola 90+3’).
Substitutes not used: JT Marcinkowski (GK), Oskar Ågren, Michael Baldisimo, Matthew Hoppe, Tommy Thompson.
SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 6; FOULS: 6; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 6
REAL SALT LAKE: Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody, Bryan Oviedo, Brayan Vera, Justen Glad (C); Braian Ojeda, Jefferson Savarino, Nelson Palacio, Diego Luna (Andreas Gomez 64’); Chicho Arango (Damir Kreilach 89’), Rubio Rubin (Anderson Julio 64’).
Substitutes not used: Gavin Beavers (GK), Maikel Chang, Emeka Eneli, Bode Hidalgo, Jasper Loffelsend, Marcelo Silva.
SHOTS: 19; SHOTS ON GOAL: 7; FOULS: 15; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 4
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES HEAD COACH LUCHI GONZALEZ
On pursuing playoff qualification:
“The main focus is how to put together a performance to win. Congrats to the guys on the accomplishments tonight, and let’s keep desiring for more. It’s all product of the guys working together and believing. The most important thing is staying focused on earning points to make playoffs. I felt we showed that desire tonight. That we care about that and to take the pressure of all these teams competing so closely for playoffs. It’s a privilege. We worked hard to earn being in the position to fight for playoffs. We want to treat that as a privilege and take advantage of that, rather than having it overwhelm us. We want to embrace it, have fun with it and enjoy it, because we have earned to be in this spot. Now let’s do our best to take it to the next step.”
On tonight’s win against Real Salt Lake:
“I thought it was one of our best first halves of the season. It was a great first goal, and a great second as well. That was a great start. It was unfortunate the goal they scored at the end of the first half. I thought we finished strong. I am proud of the guys. You could feel their hunger and their energy even before the game, and that’s what we are capable tonight. We have to recover quickly because we want to continue to show our desire against Portland.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES MIDFIELDER NIKO TSAKIRIS
On tonight’s performance against Real Salt Lake:
“I’ve been happy with the minutes that I have been getting. With this playoff push, it is important for us to stay as a group. I’ve been happy, and the group has done well. Tonight was a big win for us, so we look to continue that within these next few games. The chemistry with guys coming on the field and with new starters, it’s all been healthy and it’s all been positive. We are looking to take that into our next five games here.”
On the team’s focus on qualifying for playoffs:
“This week it was an important week for us, especially these next five games. We’ll take all the points that we can get, especially at home we want to perform and get our three points. That was important for us coming into this week. With guys coming back from national teams, it was important for us to take in what Luchi [Gonzalez] wanted us to do. I think we had good momentum coming from last week. A tie in D.C., and then three points again tonight at home. We’re excited, and I feel like we are getting our momentum back as a group to make this playoff push.”