- Match Report
- Pre-Match Predictions
- Video Highlights
- Match Pictures
Fans packed Avaya Stadium on Saturday night, the second-to-last home match of the season, to support the Quakes’ last gasp effort to make the playoffs versus the Portland Timbers. A loss or tie would have surely doomed San Jose to a fifth straight season without a post-season appearance. Fortunately the team, and the fans, came prepared for the challenge; the Quakes won the rubber-match 2-1 after splitting the first two regular season games of the season.
The Quakes came out with an intensity for which Portland was not prepared. At 16′, Jahmir Hyka intercepted a pass that was misplayed by Roy Miller which began a counter-attack opportunity; Hyka found a wide-open Vako, who took a quick touch and curved it into the far post. Six minutes later, Vako almost assisted a Hyka goal on a throughball which found its way past Danny Hoesen, but Hyka’s shot was saved by Jeff Attinella.
Victor Bernardez began the second counter-attack goal by intercepting a pass at midfield and finding Vako on the left wing. Vako was able to land a pass for Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski, whose through-ball found Danny Hoesen inside the box. Hoesen beat Miller, Liam Ridgewell, and Attinella for the goal.
However, Portland would not go quitely into the night. A Sebastian Blanco goal at the top of the box beat Quakes ‘keeper Andrew Tarbell at 86’ to set the final score at 2-1.
The Quakes managed 19 shots with 6 on frame and limited Portland to 16 shots with just two on frame, and 10 off target.
Jahmir Hyka had a dream performance for his attacking midfield role: an assist, four key passes, five crosses, 82.4% passing accuracy, three shots–one of which was saved by Attinella, and two interceptions.
The center-back duo of Victor Bernardez and Flo Jungwirth dominated Portland’s attack. Both players had five tackles and four interceptions. Jungwirth managed eleven clearances to Muma’s eight, while Muma had two blocked shots.
Vako may have emerged as the Quakes offensive centerpiece. Vako finished with a goal, seven shots, two on target, seven dribbles, two key passes, two tackles, two interceptions, and a blocked shot. By comparison, forward/captain Chris Wondolowski finished with zero shots, two key passes, and five turnovers.
Keys to Victory
The pre-match highlighted the need for Chris Leitch not to overthink his lineup, but play his best available players, including reestablishing the center-back tandem of Victor Bernardez and Flo Jungwirth. The defense held Portland to just two shots on goal all night.
A second key to victory was scoring the first goal. A disturbing trend formed during the Leitch tenure as head coach: going down early in games. As a result, the Quakes would play more aggressively, and be burned for it to the tune of three and four goal defeats. Vako’s early goal, and the team’s continued press on the attack, set the tone needed for San Jose to seize the three points.
The biggest match of the season will take place in a few weeks as the Quakes travel to Vancouver. The Whitecaps are currently first in the West with 51 points, and the Quakes’ road performances over the past eight games has been abysmally bad. If the Quakes can muster the same energy and enthusiasm they were able to kindle on Saturday night, they may find a way to exorcise those road demons, come home with three points, and defeat the expansion Minnesota United FC at home, the Quakes could be playoff bound.
With just three games left on the schedule, and the Quakes in eighth place in the West, it’s “Do or Die” time for the “Never Say Die” kids. It will be a tough task for San Jose with second-place Timbers in town, a team that has had San Jose’s number since 2011–Portland leads the overall series with eight wins, three losses, and seven draws since their promotion into MLS.
The Quakes won the first meeting at Avaya 3-0. Portland answered with a win of their own at Providence Park. The rubber match will determine if the Quakes can continue their playoff push, or possibly be all-but-eliminated with two games left on the schedule.
The Timbers have a red hot Diego Valeri rested and ready for tonight’s match. Valeri leads all of MLS in goals scored with 20; he also has a nine-game goal scoring streak, with 10 total goals over that span. Fanendo Adi is questionable to play, and probably will be on the bench. Expect Portland to run the offense that’s been clicking for them for the past few months, a 4-2-3-1 with Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Liam Ridgewell, and Roy Miller on the backline, a double-pivot with Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe moved back to take the place of the injured David Guzman, Dairon Asprilla, Valeri, and Sebastian Blanco on the attack feeding Darren Mattocks, who will probably be filling in for the injured Fanendo Adi. In goal, Jeff Attinella should start.
The Quakes have a serious problem in the midfield: they cannot move the ball through the central midfield and set up quality scoring chances, which was the key to their 3-0 win in May. Don’t be surprised to see a 4-5-1 disguised as a 4-3-3 to compensate for the lack of midfield presence. The Quakes will probably be missing Nick Lima, who rolled his ankle in Wednesday’s loss to Chicago. Kofi Sarkodie will probably start (although at this point, why not try out Kip Colvey?) at right-back. Francois Affolter has been a disaster since his arrival in San Jose and probably won’t start in such a crucial match. Leitch should return to basics with Flo Jungwirth and Victor Bernardez as the center-back pairing with Shea Salinas continuing to start at left-back. Anibal Godoy will start–and pick up a yellow card–as the defensive mid with Jackson Yueill and Vako playing wide. Chris Wondolowski, Danny Hoesen, and Marco Urena will probably start as the three forwards, but don’t be surprised to see both Wondo and Hoesen dropping back frequently to try and control the midfield.
The formation that would give San Jose the best chance of winning is simple: a diamond 4-4-2 with the same backline, Godoy as the #6, Tommy as the right-wing, Yueill as the left-wing, and Vako as the CAM serving up Wondo and Hoesen. Yueill and Tommy are strong on the ball, and Vako’s bread-and-butter is as a central attacking mid. Quite simply, Urena’s magic during the World Cup qualifiers has disappeared while Hoesen has been more than consistent with his minutes on the attack.
Final Score Prediction
Huge losses to D.C. United and Chicago Fire over the past week have not instilled much confidence that the Quakes can win in “must win” games. Missing Nick Lima and possibly starting Imperiale and/or Affolter also does not bode well for San Jose. Then there’s the trouble inside the Quakes locker room . . . it’s anyone’s guess if they can manage to rise above it, or let it sink their 2017 season. As a fan, I’m saying they finally show up against a Western Conference rival and win 2-1. However, if Imperiale or Affolter start with Sarkodie, I doubt the Quakes can contain Portland’s attack, and draw 2-2.
Special thanks to Jarisse Moore for this behind-the-goal shot of Danny Hoesen’s game winner!