Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end

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Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end

SANTA CLARA -- After digging themselves a 3-0 hole in the first half to the LA Galaxy, the San Jose Earthquakes did all they could to draw on their never say die attitude, but could only manage one goal in a furious comeback attempt and lost 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to exit the MLS Cup playoffs.

A brace from Robbie Keane and a series winning goal from Mike Magee were enough to overcome a late goal from Alan Gordon and send the Galaxy forward in their quest for a second consecutive MLS Cup.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Supporters Shield winning Earthquakes could not capitalize on their season-long unbeaten streak at sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium, and at the final whistle collapsed to the grass in defeat to their California Clasico rivals.

The Galaxy stormed out of the gates looking to put the Quakes defenders under early pressure, and in just the fourth minute Victor Bernardez was forced to concede a free kick 30 yards from goal after earning a yellow card for elbowing Omar Gonzalez. Specialist David Beckham sent the ball well over the target, but was a minute later lining up a 20 yard attempt after another Bernardez foul. This time, the Englishman curled a trademark shot over the wall that forced goalkeeper Jon Busch into a spectacular diving save.

Bernardez was forced from the game with a leg injury in the 12th minute and was replaced by Ike Opara. The Galaxy soon took advantage of the absence of the Earthquakes Defender of the Year when a miscue in the midfield allowed Keane to dribble uncontested toward the top of the penalty area. Slow to close down the Ireland international, Opara was too late to prevent Keane from unleashing a strong shot that bounced in off the post to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.

Chris Wondolowski had a golden chance to equalize in the 26th minute as the Earthquakes seemed to come to life after conceding the goal to Keane. A low cross into the area was not cleared by Gonzalez, and the ball popped loose to 10 yards from goal. Wondolowski pounced on the opportunity but sent his one-timer skimming over the crossbar.

The Galaxy doubled their advantage in the 34th minute on a counterattack engineered by Landon Donovan. Carrying the ball unimpeded toward the top of the Quakes area, the former San Jose star threaded a ball past Opara and into the path of Keane. He rounded the keeper and calmly slotted in his second goal of the night.

Donovan played provider on the Galaxys third goal as a smart give-and-go along the right sideline freed the U.S. international to cut back a cross into the Earthquakes penalty area. Magee, making a direct run from midfield, slotted the pass from Donovan past a helpless Busch to extend the Galaxy lead to 3-0 and stun the capacity Buck Shaw Stadium crowd into silence.

A flourish of scoring chances fell to the Earthquakes in the waning minutes of the first half, including a Marvin Chavez free kick that clanged off the post in the 41st minute, but the home side went into intermission licking their wounds at being down 3-1 on aggregate.

The second half started with San Jose showing more urgency in the attacking third, but the Galaxy back line settled into a solid rhythm of bend but dont break defending. And even when the Earthquakes sent quality crosses into the area, goalkeeper Josh Saunders was there to secure the ball from danger.

Second half substitutions Shea Salinas and Gordon brought renewed energy to the Earthquakes offense, and the home side began to press forward in ever increasing numbers. In the 83rd minute, the pressure finally paid off, as a weakly cleared corner kick fell to Justin Morrow 30 yards from goal. The Quakes defender volleyed a shot toward goal that Gordon deflected past Saunders and into the goal to cut the Galaxy lead to 3-1.

The Earthquakes nearly scored in stoppage time, a goal that would have leveled the series at 3-3, but Simon Dawkins skied an uncontested shot over the target with just over a minute left, and the Galaxy successfully ran out the clock to end the Quakes season.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' lopsided loss to Red Bulls

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' lopsided loss to Red Bulls

BOX SCORE

The San Jose Earthquakes had one big thing going for them when they took on the New York Red Bulls Wednesday evening — they were on 10 days rest having last played a truly competitive match on July 10 in U.S. Open Cup action.

Unfortunately for the Quakes, they failed to take advantage of that in losing to the Red Bulls 5-1 — definitely not the return to the pitch they were hoping for.  

Here are five takeaways from a Wednesday evening, lopsided loss to NYR. 

— The Quakes had no answer for Sacha Kljestan. The Red Bulls midfielder, who frequented the U.S. Men’s National Team roster at one point, was not called to international duty for the ongoing FIFA Gold Cup and San Jose paid the price for that — the man finessed the Quakes to death on Wednesday evening, factoring in three New York goals with his use of spacing in the Red Bulls midfield. 

— There were a couple of big debuts for San Jose. First, newly signed designated player Valeri Qazaishvili — who the MLS world is calling Vako — made his league debut when in he came as a substitute for Danny Hoesen at halftime. The Georgian native showed flashes with his early touch, but never really factored in the game until the 88th minute when he scored the Quakes’ lone goal on a volley tap courtesy of a nifty Jahmir Hyka cross. It’s a nice debut on the scoresheet, but San Jose is expecting DP-esque things from the Georgian. 

— And second, welcome back, Quincy Amarikwa. The forward has been sidelined since September of 2016 when he suffered ACL and LCL damage that required surgery. Amarikwa has been documenting his recovery on social media and surprised Quakes fans when he make his on-pitch return last week in a friendly against Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. On Wednesday, he made his official return in the 76th minute. Amarikwa has nine goals and seven assists in 41 career appearances with the Quakes. 

— It definitely wasn’t the homecoming head coach Chris Leitch was hoping for. Leitch played for five seasons over with the New York club. He made 101 appearances for the Metrostars/Red Bulls, assisting on five goals during his career. 

He’s now 0-1-0 as an opposing head coach. 

— It’s unfair to nitpick on a single defensive effort, given that soccer is a team sport, but the Red Bulls attacked center back Andres Imperiale often Wednesday afternoon — and more often than not, they were rewarded with a scoring opportunity. It’s the second straight poor showing on the road for the Quakes defense as a whole after surrendering a four-spot to Atlanta United FC on Independence Day.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' historic US Open Cup win over Galaxy

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' historic US Open Cup win over Galaxy

It was a historic night over at Avaya Stadium. 

For the first time in U.S. Open Cup history, the San Jose Earthquakes have beaten their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy -- 3-2. 

The win also propels the Quakes to just their second appearance in the tournament's semifinals. 

Chris Wondolowski scored a brace to lead the way while Danny Hoesen added the insurance. 

Here are a handful of things to know about Monday's win over the Galaxy. 

-- The sixth time was the charm as the Quakes had lost five previous meetings against their rivals. But the night began with some doubts when Jelle Van Damme scored in just the third minute. His header was goal No. 2 in the last two games against the Quakes.

But Wondolowski equalized courtesy of Tommy Thompson in the 16th minute and then put the San Jose up for good six minutes in the second half -- once again, thanks to Thompson. 

Hoesen scored a breakaway goal about ten minutes later.  

-- If you tried to find Wondolowski on the pitch using his regular number, you were unsuccessful. 

Wondolowski was sporting No. 38 Monday night in honor of Matheus Silva, the Quakes midfielder playing for Reno 1868 on loan who suffered swimming accident July 4 in Lake Tahoe. 

Silva was in a coma until July 6. 

Fittingly, the forward scored twice. Wondolowski's goal is the sixth of his U.S. Open Cup career. He's now tied for the all-time lead in Earthquakes history.  

-- Pregame, the Quakes introduced their latest acquisition, Designated Player Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili, to the press. 

Qazaishvili began his career in his native Georgia with FC Saburtalo in 2010, spending time on loan with Metalurgi Rustavi and Sioni Bulnisi. 

He then moved on to Vitesse in August of 2011 at just 18 years old, tallying one goal in four appearances for the first team in his debut season.

-- Speaking of Georgia, the Bay Area now boasts two of the nation's very best athletes. Zaza Pachulia, the starting center of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, was in attendance MOnday night. 

The center kicked the ceremonial first goal. 

He also swapped jerseys with Vako -- as per usual in soccer circles. No word on Pachulia's footy game. 

-- The Quakes have already equaled their best ever finish in Cup history. They'll now try to surpass that when they face either Sporting Kansas City of FC Dallas -- who play Tuesday night.