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FEATURE: Matias Almeyda pulls the right strings as Quakes extend home unbeaten streak to eight

The San Jose Earthquakes, and specifically head coach Matias Almeyda, opted not to rotate the lineup on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, despite the match being their fourth in just 11 days.

Playing games on consecutive Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Quakes used the same starting XI in all four contests, earning nine of a possible 12 points and securing three shutout victories at home in the process. The only match the club failed to win in the stretch was a 3-1 defeat in Minnesota, despite tallying a club road record 27 shots and capturing nearly two-thirds of the possession (64.1%).

Saturday’s match against RSL was an important one and could have playoff implications come October. The two teams are in a heated battle for a postseason berth and San Jose’s victory allowed them to leapfrog the Utah side, as well as Houston, in the Western Conference standings.

The victory didn’t come easily, though, as Real Salt Lake did well to keep numbers behind the ball and prevent dangerous crosses from MLS Newcomer of the Year candidate Cristian Espinoza. In fact, it was the first match the Quakes were outshot since they visited Toronto FC on May 26.

Scoreless after 65 minutes, Almeyda used all three of his subs in an eight-minute span. He brought on winger Shea Salinas, attack-minded defender Paul Marie and striker Danny Hoesen in a flurry of moves to throw the Quakes’ full offensive artillery at RSL. The risk, of course, was leaving themselves vulnerable by removing both fullbacks and defensive midfielder Judson.

It paid off as Marie and Hoesen combined for the game-winning goal three minutes into stoppage time.

San Jose extended their home unbeaten streak to eight with the win and are now 7-0-1 at home since April 6. Since the start of April, the Quakes rank second in MLS in goals allowed per game, tied for third in points per game (1.87) and wins (8), and tied for sixth in goals per game (1.67). They have been successful offensively and defensively.

With the Earthquakes’ dominance at home restored, the club now just need to continue picking up points on the road where they’ve won just once this year. They will soon get a chance on Friday, July 12 against the LA Galaxy.

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