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.

Earthquakes sign Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as latest Designated Player

Earthquakes sign Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as latest Designated Player

(Editor's Note: The above video is from January 2017)

The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that the club has signed Georgia National Team attacking midfielder Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as a Designated Player, pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and ITC. Qazaishvili scored for Georgia in their most recent World Cup qualifying match on June 11.

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

Qazaishvili, 24, becomes San Jose’s youngest ever Designated Player after six years with SBV Vitesse of the Dutch Eredivisie. He tallied 25 goals and 10 assists in 104 league games for the Dutch side, adding another three goals and three assists in other top-flight competition.

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.

From 2012-13 to 2013-14, Qazaishvili spent significant time with the U-21 squad, scoring 14 goals in 30 league appearances for the youth side and establishing himself as a first-team player.

Qazaishvili then scored nine goals during the 2014-15 Eredivisie season and a team-best 10 in 2015-16. He later spent the majority of the 2016-17 season on loan with Poland’s Legia Warsaw, helping them win the league championship with a 21-6-10 overall record.

In addition to his experience in league play, Qazaishvili has made eight appearances in international cup competition, including Europa League qualifiers, Europa League and UEFA Champions League. He appeared against clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in Champions League play.

He also has extensive experience playing with the Georgia National Team, scoring nine goals in 24 appearances at various youth levels and five goals in 23 appearances for the senior team.

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' draw with Sporting KC

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' draw with Sporting KC

SAN JOSE -- People say that the when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. 

So if you’re someone who believes in that, Saturday’s 0-0 draw is a good thing for the San Jose Earthquakes. After dropping two straight MLS matches, the Quakes needed to stop the bleeding and were faced with doing so against the Western Conference’s top team, Sporting Kansas City — no small task. 

Here are five things you need to know about a scoreless, albeit positive, affair Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium. 

— Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear’s troubles began even before San Jose took to the pitch on Saturday. We knew of three key cogs — Florian Jungwirth, Marco Urena, Darwin Ceren — already out with injury or suspension. But things got worse when Fatai Alashe and Simon Dawkins became unavailable. The result: Kinnear’s lineup card listed just 16 players — three of which have spent the vast majority of their season playing for San Jose’s United Soccer League affiliate, Reno 1868. Of those three, one saw playing time — Jackson Yueill, who made his MLS debut.

— The draw is positive for two reasons. One, San Jose was without several key players and it would have been very easy to use that as an excuse for a less than stellar effort. And two, the draws snaps a two-game MLS slide. The race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference is congested. San Jose may be in seventh place, but the draw keeps them just eight points behind first place Sporting KC. 

— The first half unfolded as expected — the shorthanded Quakes had no choice but to play a defensive game and hope Sporting KC made a mistake on a counterattack. That didn’t happen. In fact, three times, SKC had an open net and couldn’t capitalize. San Jose, on the other hand, did not record a single shot on Tim Melia’s goal. Things opened up a little more in the second half for the Quakes. But as its been the case for some time now, the Quakes simply could not break through. KC's Graham Zusi had arguably the match's best chance with mere seconds left to play. The clean sheet for Kansas City means the visitors have now allowed just eight road goals in nine matches all season long. 

— Saturday’s match against Sporting KC was the second in a very busy stretch for the Quakes. Last Wednesday, the Quakes took down the San Francisco Deltas (NASL) 2-0 in U.S. Open Cup play. However, the win means another game on the schedule the following Wednesday — against the reigning MLS champion Seattle Sounders. 

In all, by the time San Jose faces Los Angeles in Stanford Stadium for the Cali Clasico, the Quakes will have played five matches in 18 days before packing up for a cross country trip to Atlanta for another game on Independence Day. 

Tired legs, indeed. 

— A couple of logistic particulars: Saturday’s reported attendance was 18,000 — another sell-out for Avaya Stadium where the Quakes remain very stout. As a side note, the Quakes announced earlier in the week they have sold over 30,000 tickets for the aforementioned Cali Clasico at Stanford Stadium. 

Chris Wondolowski and Anibal Godoy went into the book with yellow cards on Saturday. 

Next up, the Quakes will take on Real Salt Lake next Saturday at Avaya Stadium with kick scheduled for 7:30 p.m.