Marin Independent Journal
Earthquakes honor championship team
San Jose wins season opener
On a night the Earthquakes celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 2003 MLS Cup championship squad, the 2023 team showed there's reason to feel good about its new direction.
In the home opener for coach Luchi Gonzalez, the Quakes scored two secondhalf goals to defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 on Saturday night in front of an announced sellout crowd of 18,000 at PayPal Park.
It was a much-needed result for the Quakes (1-1-0), who allowed two goals in extra time to lose their season opener 2-1 at Atlanta and were facing a Whitecaps team that ranked 26th in the MLS weekly power rankings (San Jose placed 23rd).
The Quakes allowed the first goal when Vancouver (0-2-0) took advantage of a turnover in San Jose's end in the 17th minute, but this time the Quakes were able to make the necessary adjustments.
“Credit to the guys for not giving up,” said Gonzalez, an assistant on the 2022 U.S. World Cup team. “To be relentless in their attitude, their belief, their energy, their intensity. For us to come back shows character and it will be a good reference for us moving forward for the rest of the season.”
While the franchise was honoring players and coaches from their 2003 team during a halftime ceremony, Gonzalez said the locker room was focused on trying to play through the flanks instead of through the middle of the field, where Vancouver had set up a compact block.
The breakthrough finally came in the 68th minute when Jeremy Ebobisse headed a cross from Jamiro Monteiro into the upperleft corner. It was the second goal of the season for Ebobisse, who had a teamhigh 17 goals last season, the ninth-most in MLS.
The winner was a true team effort — Cade Cowell, Ebobisse and Christian Espinoza all made passes in the box before substitute fullback Bernard Akapo fired a shot near post in the 77th minute.
It was the first home appearance for Akapo, who was signed last August from Spain's La Liga but had foot surgery and didn't make his MLS debut until this season.
Akapo is part of a revamped backline for the Quakes, who allowed a Western Conference-worst 69 goals last season. Goalie Daniel, fullbacks Akapo and Rodrigues, centerbacks Jonathan Mensah and Miguel Trauco and defensive midfielder Carlos Gruezo have all come since last summer.
“We took all the lessons from the Atlanta game and just wanted to win, and that's what we did tonight,” Mensah said. “We're going to keep working. This team is an ambitious team, a young group of guys that is hungry to succeed, so we're going to continue to work and we'll always give everything we have on the field.”
It was a deserved result for the Quakes, who outshot the Whitecaps 20-7 (including 6-2 in shots on goal) and had a 60-40 edge in time of possession.
No one is expecting a repeat of 2003, when Landon Donovan (who wasn't in attendance Saturday) led the franchise to its last MLS Cup. But after Saturday's win, the Quakes at least have a chance to build momentum as it seeks its first winning season since 2013.
They return to PayPal Park on Saturday against Colorado (0-1-1), which lost its opener 4-0 at Seattle and then tied Sporting KC 0-0 at home.