SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With a 1-0 win against the New England Revolution on Saturday, the San Jose Earthquakes exorcised the ghost of their home openers past. And that gives them a leg up on putting the bad memories of 2011 to bed as well.
Even though this was San Jose’s first win in a home opener since the club was re-established in 2008, it wasn’t the kind of performance that drew rave reviews from San Jose coach Frank Yallop, who was displeased with his side’s emotional letdown after Chris Wondolowski’s 15th-minute strike put the Quakes ahead.
But it displayed a level of grittiness that last year’s San Jose side often lacked. The Quakes ranked 16th out of 18 clubs in terms of records when scoring first in 2011, finishing 7-4-5 in such situations.
“Last year, we would have most probably, if not definitely, conceded a late goal,” Yallop said. “All in all, just really pleased to get the three points, get this game out of the way and just move on and look forward to the rest of the season. I said during the week it’s like a Cup final to us, and we won the Cup final. So now we can build on it.”
Full Highlights: SJ 1, NE 0
Yallop said he felt his club was “nervous all day,” and Wondolowski admitted that the adrenaline-packed Quakes were perhaps a little overhyped.
“I think all of us, to a man, missed a couple of passes that we don’t normally miss,” Wondolowski said. “It wasn’t our prettiest game, but those games last year, we end up losing or tying 1-1. So it’s nice to grind it out and get a win like that.”
Despite having left back Justin Morrow manning the middle of the defense in partnership with newcomer Víctor Bernárdez, the Quakes’ backline kept its composure intact as New England searched vainly for an equalizer.
“Compared to last year, I thought we kept the ball at times and we were able to see the game out by passing through [New England] rather than just lumping it long and defending in our 18,” Wondolowski said. “I think they had possession, but not possession in dangerous places. They had it deep in their half, and I don’t think they created many [scoring] opportunities.”
The stats back that up; San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch made only one official save all night, and it was on a purely speculative effort by Benny Feilhaber from deep outside the penalty box.
“At the end of the day, it’s three points,” Busch said. “It wasn’t pretty, especially in the second half. They threw a lot at us, but we kept our shape, we kept our organization, and they didn’t have too many quality looks.”
Shea Salinas, whose knifing takeaway in the Revolution’s half of the field and ensuing through ball to Wondolowski set the Quakes’ goal in motion, said the team wasn’t concerned with any aesthetic issues.
“The motto before the game was, ‘Win,’” Salinas said. “That was all we were focused on. And we were able to do that, so mission accomplished. We got the job done.”
The next job is following up with another, similar result. San Jose hasn’t strung together two consecutive victories since June of last year, and after that brief streak, the Quakes went on a franchise-record 13-match winless skid.
“It’s a good steppingstone,” Wondolowski said. “It’s always good to win the game and be above .500, whether it’s one game or 10 games in. It’s nice to get rolling.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes