SAN JOSE, Calif. – In their third and final Group Stage match of the MLS is Back Tournament, the San Jose Earthquakes defeated Chicago Fire FC 2-0 to win Group B with an undefeated 2-0-1 record (7 pts.). The Quakes became the fifth team to clinch a berth in the Knockout Stage and the first to win their group so far. The Earthquakes are now 2-1-2 in the regular season, tied for their best start through five matches since 2012 (2016).
Following a scoreless first half, San Jose broke the deadlock through Cristian Espinoza. Midfielder Jackson Yueill played a through ball to Espinoza, who evaded his defender and blasted his left-footed shot past goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm.
Head coach Matias Almeyda made his final three substitutions simultaneously in the 82nd minute, bringing on three attacking players while holding a 1-0 lead. Two of his substitutes, Carlos Fierro and Chris Wondolowski, connected to double San Jose’s advantage one minute later. Fierro whipped in a left-footed cross from the right flank and Wondolowski headed the ball past Kronholm.
Goalkeeper Daniel Vega earned his second shutout of the tournament. He’s one of just three keepers with multiple shutouts thus far in the competition, joining Columbus Crew SC’s Eloy Room and Real Salt Lake’s Zac MacMath.
San Jose will now get a short break before playing their Round of 16 match in the Knockout Stage. More information, including date and opponent, will be announced later.
The Earthquakes finished the Group Stage with an undefeated 2-0-1 record, winning Group B. The Quakes are the fifth team overall to clinch their spot in the Knockout Stage and the first to be crowned winners of their respective group.
The Earthquakes hold a 2-1-2 record so far in the 2020 regular season, tied for their best five-match start to a season since 2012 (2016).
The Earthquakes now hold a 12-16-11 all-time record against Chicago Fire FC. San Jose has now earned back-to-back wins over Chicago for just the second time since 1999.
Forward Chris Wondolowski scored his second goal of the season and 161st of his MLS career, extending his own MLS record. He has scored 17 goals in his last 27 appearances dating back to May 2019. Wondolowski now has 11 career goals against Chicago, tied for third most against the club in MLS history.
Midfielder Cristian Espinoza scored his first goal of the season and third of his MLS career.
Midfielder Jackson Yueill tallied the assist on Cristian Espinoza’s goal. It marked his first assist of the season and sixth of his MLS career.
Midfielder Carlos Fierro tallied an assist on Chris Wondolowski’s goal. It marked the first assist of his MLS career.
Defender Tommy Thompson tallied an assist on Chris Wondolowski’s goal. It marked his first assist of his season and sixth of his MLS career.
Goalkeeper Daniel Vega recorded his second shutout of the 2020 MLS season and ninth of his MLS career. He is one of just three goalkeepers with multiple shutouts in the MLS is Back Tournament thus far.
Forward Danny Hoesen made his 100th appearance in MLS.
Defender Paul Marie made his first start of the season and fourth of his MLS career. His last start came on September 11, 2019 vs. RSL.
MLS Regular Season
San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 0 Chicago Fire FC
July 19, 2020 – ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
Man of the Match: Cristian Espinoza
Scoring Summary: SJ – Cristian Espinoza (Jackson Yueill) 56; SJ – Chris Wondolowski (Carlos Fierro, Tommy Thompson) 83.
Misconduct Summary: CHI – Boris Sekulić (caution) 29; SJ – Florian Jungwirth (caution) 37; SJ – Judson (caution) 50; CHI – Alvaro Medran (caution) 53; CHI – Gaston Gimenez (caution) 58; CHI – Fabian Herbers 61; CHI – Mauricio Pineda (caution) 62; SJ – Magnus Eriksson (caution) 86.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Daniel Vega; Nick Lima (Danny Hoesen 82), Florian Jungwirth, Guram Kashia, Paul Marie (Tommy Thompson 69), Jackson Yueill, Magnus Eriksson, Judson (Chris Wondolowski 82); Cristian Espinoza (Carlos Fierro 82), Vako (Shea Salinas 69), Andres Rios.
Substitutes not used: Oswaldo Alanis, Tanner Beason, Matt Bersano, Eric Calvillo, Cade Cowell, Luis Felipe, Jack Skahan.
SHOTS: 11, SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; SAVES: 3; FOULS: 11; CORNER KICKS: 5, OFFSIDES:1.
CHICAGO FIRE FC: Kenneth Kronholm; Boris Sekulić, Francisco Calvo, Miguel Navarro; Luka Stojanovic (Fabian Herbers 45’+2’), Alvaro Medran, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Mauricio Pineda (Djordje Mihailovic 72), Gaston Gimenez; CJ Sapong (Elliot Collier 71), Robert Berić.
Substitutes not used: Ignacio Aliseda, Jonathan Bornstein, Brandt Bronico, Javier Casas, Wyatt Omsberg, Connor Sparrow, Gabriel Slonina, Nicholas Slonina, Andre Reynolds II.
SHOTS: 8; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; SAVES: 1; FOULS: 23; CORNER KICKS: 3, OFFSIDES: 2.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES HEAD COACH MATIAS ALMEYDA
On what tonight’s victory means for the team and season:
“These three games were important for this tournament, and it’s also important for the points in the regular season from the stoppage. Today, the players are responding in an excellent manner. That makes us and our families happy, especially the people from San Jose that watch and follow us.”
On his philosophy behind tonight’s offensive substitutions:
“[The substitutions] depend on the game and on what we are experiencing on the bench. But I considered the game still open, and we could have ended it with the substitutions that we made. Fortunately, it ended up in a positive result.”
On the team’s progression throughout the tournament group stage:
“I think it’s a team that grows day by day, a team that is growing individually and collectively, and a team that enjoys playing football, which is what I’m mostly interested in.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES MIDFIELDER CRISTIAN ESPINOZA
On the game before and after his goal:
“That’s how thing played out. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. That was what we saw in the first half, and after the first goal, spaces always kept opening up and we had to maintain calm and luckily we were able to get the second goal.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES MIDFIELDER JACKSON YUEILL
On why the team has been performing well recently:
“We are just excited to be a team again, playing together. I think now these three games have given us a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum. We are just happy to be on the field. We didn’t want this to be our last game for a while, and we want to keep pushing and keep playing together. You can kind of see that everyone has a little bit of a chip on their shoulders to make it as far as we can and to enjoy ourselves. I think that’s why we are doing the best right now.”
On the team’s chemistry and positive momentum:
“I think that, from the start of last year, we’ve created a group that enjoys being around each other on and off the field. I think that’s the most enjoyable thing that we have, we like to be around each other, and it translates into the game. You want to work for your friends, and you want to get them all, and you want to make them look good on the field. I think it’s a representation of just a locker room group.”
On Wondolowski’s leadership in the team:
“Wondolowski is a goal scorer. He’s such a good leader, such a good captain and hardworking guy. I think he can still play another five more years and come out and score in almost every game if he really wanted to. His presence on and off the field is one of the reasons why the locker room does so well, and the team supports each other. He’s such a big influence on myself since I’ve been here, and for everyone from the older guys to the younger guys. His presence brings a lot to the team.”