MATCH RECAP: Earthquakes clinch postseason berth with 3-2 win over LAFC

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes defeated LAFC 3-2 on Wednesday evening at Earthquakes Stadium, punching their ticket to the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Tonight’s win gives San Jose its 10th postseason berth in club history, and first since 2017.

LAFC took the lead in the 23rd minute when Diego Palacios’ cross was redirected by Diego Rossi and put away by Latif Blessing at the back post.

San Jose equalized just five minutes later when Cristian Espinoza’s corner kick caromed off LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta and snuck in for an own goal. The Quakes added a second goal before halftime when Espinoza sent a cross to the back post and Chris Wondolowski volleyed the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

The Earthquakes dropped to 10 men in the 61st minute as Jackson Yueill received his second yellow card in a nine-minute span.

Despite the man disadvantage, the Quakes doubled their lead in the 72nd minute. Second-half substitute Shea Salinas sent a long cross into the box from the left wing, which was controlled and blasted into the bottom-left corner of the net by Espinoza. The goal gave Salinas his 48th career assist for San Jose, setting a new club record.

LAFC pulled a goal back three minutes into stoppage time, altering the score line but not the result.

The Earthquakes will prepare to hit the road to face the reigning MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC as part of Decision Day on Sunday, Nov. 8. The regular season finale kicks off from CenturyLink Field at 3:30 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. San Jose can climb as high as sixth place with a win and losses by the Colorado Rapids and LAFC.

 

GAME NOTES

The San Jose Earthquakes defeated LAFC 3-2 tonight, punching their ticket to the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. It marks the 10th time in club history that San Jose has reached the postseason, and first since 2017.

San Jose now holds an 8-8-6 record in the 2020 regular season and sit in eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Earthquakes now hold a 6-2-1 record in their last nine matches, tied for the best nine-match run in MLS, including a 4-0-1 record in their last five matches at Earthquakes Stadium.

Tonight’s match marked the first between San Jose and LAFC at Earthquakes Stadium since March 30, 2019, a span of 586 days.

The Quakes won a season series against Los Angeles Football Club for the first time ever (2-1-0). LAFC joined MLS as an expansion team in 2018. San Jose also recorded their first-ever home victory over LAFC, who had won both prior meetings at Earthquakes Stadium.

Forward Chris Wondolowski scored his seventh goal of the season and 166th of his MLS career, extending his own league record. He now has three goals all-time vs. LAFC, tied for third-most against the LA side among all players in MLS history. His seven goals this season are a team high.

Midfielder Cristian Espinoza tallied his third goal of the season and fifth of his MLS career. It also marked his third game-winning goal of the season and of his MLS career. Espinoza also assisted Chris Wondolowski’s goal, marking his ninth assist of the season and 22nd of his MLS career. His nine assists this season are now tied for second in MLS.

 

MLS Regular Season

San Jose Earthquakes 3 – 2 LAFC

Nov. 4, 2020 – Earthquakes Stadium in San Jose, Calif.

Man of the Match: Cristian Espinoza

Scoring Summary: LAFC – Latif Blessing (Diego Rossi, Diego Palacios) 23; SJ – Eduard Atuesta (own goal) 28; SJ – Chris Wondolowski (Cristian Espinoza) 37; SJ – Cristian Espinoza (Shea Salinas) 72; LAFC – Diego Rossi (Carlos Vela, Jordan Harvey) 90+5.

Misconduct Summary: SJ – Andy Rios (caution) 21; LAFC – Francisco Ginella (caution) 33; SJ – Jackson Yueill (caution) 52; SJ – Jackson Yueill (ejection) 61; LAFC – Jesus Murillo (caution) 66.

 

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: JT Marcinkowski; Marcos Lopez, Oswaldo Alanis, Florian Jungwirth, Nick Lima; Carlos Fierro (Shea Salinas 69), Judson, Jackson Yueill, Cristian Espinoza (Paul Marie 87); Andy Rios (Luis Felipe 65), Chris Wondolowski (Cade Cowell 87).

Substitutes not used: Tanner Beason, Eric Calvillo, Siad Haji, Tommy Thompson, Daniel Vega.

SHOTS: 12, SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; SAVES: 3; FOULS: 11; CORNER KICKS: 8, OFFSIDES: 2.

 

LAFC: Kenneth Vermeer; Eddie Segura, Diego Palacios (Christian Torres 84), Tristan Blackmon (Jordan Harvey HT), Jesus Murillo, Latif Blessing; Francisco Ginella (Carlos Vela HT), Jose Cifuentes, Eduard Atuesta; Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez (Bryce Duke 85).

Substitutes not used: Erik Duenas, Phillip Ejimadu, Dejan Jakovic, Antonio Leone.

SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; SAVES: 1; FOULS: 14; CORNER KICKS: 6, OFFSIDES: 2.

 

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES HEAD COACH MATIAS ALMEYDA

On tonight’s big win:

“I am very happy and very thankful of the San Jose family; from the groundskeepers, staff, players, to all of our fans. In the best times and the worst times, I’ve tried to keep calm. Being aware that there was a way of playing that will allow us into the playoffs. For certain moments in Orlando, I had hope. We really stayed calm, careful, and we kept faith in our difficult moments. But we doubled down on our bet and corrected things. When the players began to regain their confidence, I knew there was a possibility to come back. I told the players that today was an important date for me, in which now I will write down in my victory book; despite what happens beyond playoffs. It was not easy to pick up what had previously fallen. So, I am very happy and very thankful.”

On what it means for this team to make it into playoffs:

“In my life I always live in the present. It’s a difficult year for human beings; a year of uncertainty. It’s the same uncertainty we had before playing this game, not knowing if the game would even happen at all. I told the players a while ago that it’s not in my dictionary of life to ever give up. I’ve gone through very good and bad times in my life and in my football career. I’ve built my career as a coach with this same mentality [to never give up]. I treat the players in a humane way deservingly so and I never focus on a single result, which is why we got back up. I’ve transmitted this mindset to the players and make them see that this is how I live football. But more importantly, how I live life; respecting, accepting, recognizing, while still working. And I believe in hard work. The players have understood my way of thinking along with the coaching staff now. If we were a man down against this team [LAFC] a year ago, surely our confidence would have been impacted and we would have probably conceded multiple goals. Football is about being a family, and for us, giving up is never an option.”

 

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES MIDFIELDER SHEA SALINAS

On the team’s mentality going into today with so many uncertainties:

“I think there has been a ton of uncertainty with the game, obviously with the election. I think, for us, it’s focus on what we can control. Something in my life, and my career, I’ve tried to maintain the motto: focus on what you can control. You can control how hard you work. You can control your attitude. We didn’t officially know when the game was going to kick off until last night, probably like all of you, but in our head, the game was always going to happen on Wednesday. We prepared on Monday like our game was Wednesday. We prepared on Tuesday like our game was Wednesday, and when we found out our game was Wednesday, we were ready to go. I think that’s a credit to Matias [Almeyda] and the staff for preparing us for tonight’s game and just also our mentality. We have become a team that can overcome adversity, so it wasn’t that difficult to get ready for tonight’s game.”

On his emotional reaction to making the playoffs and breaking the Quakes assist record:

“It’s actually really exciting. Making the playoffs is amazing. I think the assist record is something that I don’t really want to focus on too much. I don’t want to take away from the team and the team result because the guys worked incredibly hard. It’s a joy to watch the game on the sideline. I get the best seat in the house. Then I get the opportunity to go on the field and play for 15-20 minutes, whatever it is. I get to go out there and help the guys whatever way I can. I’m just super grateful for the position I’m in, and I’m super grateful for the team I play for, and the locker room we have. When I get to come in for 20 minutes, it’s awesome, and I love the other 70 minutes where I get to watch.”

 

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES FORWARD CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI

On the importance of the third and final goal:

“Absolutely. It was always a huge goal and first step along the way to make playoffs. Yeah, the third goal was monstrous. It was huge. It was a great play by Shea [Salinas] but an even better play by Cristian [Espinoza]. It was a good touch, great finish, but Shea coming down the flank and being able to create that and being able to, again, become the all-time leader in assists and do what he always does. He brings a spark to us, and it was a big win for us. It’s a big-win mentally, and it gets us somewhere. It’s nice to have that tangible building block that we can go off of. It was great to get that win. I think all across the board I thought we played well. We did let up two goals, but I thought our defense played amazingly. I thought Marcos [Lopez] was outstanding, Nick Lima, Florian [Jungwirth], Oswaldo [Alanis]. And Judson, oh my gosh, I wouldn’t be surprised if he passes me on the freeway just running around, covering ground, and tackling me there. Again, credit to everyone. It was awesome. Fun to be a part of.”

On the chaos of 2020 and how this team deals with adversity:

“We joke, and I say this facetiously, that our team is made for 2020. 2020 is crazy. We’re mayhem. That’s what our team is made for. It’s why we love it. I wish we could be a little bit sharper and didn’t have to endure all the valleys. I love how high the mountains are. We have to make sure our valleys aren’t too low and stay more even keeled, but our team is made for 2020.”

 

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