The Earthquakes opened up Avaya Stadium with a bang. Well, two.
The first came on a sublime first-time volley from JJ Koval in the 58th minute, and the second from fellow Stanford alum Adam Jahn, who slammed in a header just nine minutes later.
Add a goofy first-half own goal from Omar Gonzalez, and an extra time hailstorm, the Quakes gave the supporters a memorable introduction to their new home, defeating the rival Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2.
Standing outside the Earthquakes’ new digs, you wouldn’t know only 10,000 seats of the 18,000 capacity stadium were filled, as San Jose fans kept the new venue rocking for the entire 90 minutes.
Kinnear undersold the importance of the game from a footballing standpoint, but could not deny the significance of the home opener:
“For a preseason game it was a big event. It was almost like opening day, where you could really just tell the feel had something different about it when you walked on the field for warm-ups, when you walked out of the locker room to start the game. It didn’t have a real preseason feel. … These guys have been waiting a long time for something like this to happen, and it’s there.”
The “Largest Outdoor Bar in America” also appeared to be a hit with a large portion of the support, who were lined up three rows deep at the opening whistle.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
The first half looked like your typical MLS preseason clash; that is to say not very exciting. The Quakes scored the lone goal of the half in the 42nd minute, when Shea Salinas dribbled past his man down the left wing and whipped in a cross that deflected off defender Omar Gonzalez’s chest and into the net.
Despite the score, the first half ended with out a shot on target for San Jose. Kinnear attributed the slow start to opening day nerves:
“I thought we were a little bit frazzled at the beginning of the game. Think guys got caught up in the moment a little bit. Our possession was a little off and we were rushing our passes.”
One of those who looked especially nervous to Kinnear was second year man JJ Koval. Koval gave San Jose their second, and most impressive goal in the 58th minute on a first timed screaming volley from the top of the box, after a Chris Wondolowski headed layoff.
Kinnear said Koval was so anxious pre-game, the first year coach had to calm him down:
“He was one of those guys who was really nervous. He was even standing up at halftime where I was like ‘dude, sit down. You’ve got to take it easy.’ I talked to him at halftime about being more away from Matias rather than being so close to him and kind’ve spreading the field out a little bit and I think that’s one of the reasons he got his goal.”
Striker Wondolowski detailed the impressive sequence:
“Great ball by Matias. He saw my run and he put it perfect. I saw JJ coming in, making a late run out of the midfield, the amount of ground he covers is amazing. The way he was on top of the box was nice and great finish by him.”
The Galaxy got one back off the head of Jose Villareal, who flicked a Robbie Rodgers cross over the outstretched hand of Bingham, onto the far post and into the net.
The Quakes responded in an in instant when substitute Jahn scored his seventh goal of the preseason, thumping a header off a perfect Matias Perez Garcia cross.
Wondolowski, usually a regular on the score sheet, talked about how Jahn has improved this preseason:
“I think he’s shown that he’s focusing on being that target. He put on a lot of muscle. I think it really showed there. He was battling with Omar Gonzalez whose one of the best at that and I thought he handled his own.”
San Jose got a little lax towards the end of the match, letting Robbie Keane finish an easy shot at the far post to cut San Jose’s advantage to 3-2.
As the rain started to come down, Alan Gordon blew an opportunity to tie the game in the 87th minute, poking a sitting cross over the bar (and into the Bar) right in front of Bingham’s goal.
Finally as fans ran for cover while the hail began to pound Avaya, Quakes winger Cordell Cato attempted to wrap a shot around Rowe’s far post, only for the keeper to parry it away.
Wondolowski told reporters postgame what he thought about extra time hailstorm:
“Please call this game.”
Assuming a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the Earthquakes will begin regular season play on Saturday March 7, when they travel to face FC Dallas at 5:30 p.m.
The Quakes are scheduled to play their regular season home opener on March 22, hosting the Chicago Fire in a nationally televised 4:00 p.m. game.
Earthquakes: Clarence Goodson (foot) Jordan Stewart (calf) , Innocent Emeghara (shoulder)
Galaxy: Edson Buddle, Jaime Penedo, Baggio Husidic, Gyasi Zardes