Matias Perez Garcia needed just one shot to make an impact in his MLS debut.
The Argentinean midfielder, who joined the San Jose Earthquakes as a Designated Player last week, slammed home a left-footed attempt from just outside the penalty area Friday night, helping the Quakes earn a 2-2 tie against the red-hot LA Galaxy.
The 29-year-old’s first league goal, combined with Chris Wondolowski’s 87th, allowed San Jose (6-8-6) to escape StubHub Center with a critical road point despite being outshot 24-3 by the Galaxy.
“The goal is very important for my confidence,” Perez Garcia told reporters through a team interpreter. “That gets me more comfortable right away. After that, the confidence rises. I’m looking forward to the next game.”
Perez Garcia, who did not play last weekend against Seattle due to paperwork issues with his transfer from Argentinean side Tigre, slotted into the Quakes’ lineup as a replacement for injured attacker Yannick Djalo.
He quickly picked up where the Portuguese winger left off, combining with Wondolowski to form a dangerous combination – especially on counterattacks, an avenue San Jose often were unable to utilize effectively in recent seasons, with target forwards on the pitch.
“I think you saw tonight that he’s a good player,” Quakes coach Mark Watson told reporters. “He’s great on the ball, he gets out of pressure. His passing’s good and he scored a great goal. I thought it was a good start for him and he’s going to be a big part of what we do moving forward.”
Both San Jose goals were set in motion by swift transitions from defense to offense. On Perez Garcia’s strike, Shea Salinas intercepted a loose pass from LA’s Landon Donovan and fired a long pass down the right sideline for Atiba Harris.
Harris beat the onrushing Donovan to deliver a first-time pass low across the top of the box. Wondolowski’s nifty back-heel teed the ball up for Perez Garcia to run onto it, delivering a withering shot that Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo could only slow, not stop, with his left arm.
“It was a very quick transition, a great ball in the middle,” Perez Garcia said. “It came right to me, and I didn’t have any doubt, just fired it as hard as I could into the back of the net. It was great.”
The Quakes have been able to successfully defend outside of Buck Shaw Stadium this season – San Jose came into Friday’s match ranked third in the league in terms of goals-against average away from home, at 1.13 – but prior to Friday had scored only five times in those seven road matches, the third-worst rate in MLS.
A new counterattacking verve – one that should only be enhanced whenever Djalo can return from a strained right quadriceps – could prove to be a difference-maker as the Quakes try to claw their way into playoffs despite finishing with nine of their remaining 14 games on the road.
“That was part of the game plan, to get out on the counter,” Perez Garcia said. “We knew they were very good with the ball, were going to have possession. We needed to get out quickly and create chances, and we did that with both of the goals.
"We did have a couple other chances to score goals, but we didn’t take advantage of them. We’ll get out of here with a point and a good result.”