Rookie Nick Lima leads Earthquakes on both sides of ball in win

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes came into Saturday’s match against Colorado having allowed 12 goals in their previous three matches, all defeats.

So, naturally, it fell to one of their defenders to power the Quakes to their first victory in nearly a month.

Rookie Nick Lima, who recently moved from right back to wing-back with new coach Chris Leitch’s change to a 3-5-2 formation, delivered a blistering strike from 27 yards out to give San Jose to a 1-0 lead just before the hour mark. And then the 22-year-old helped ensure that advantage held up with his defensive work, even as the Quakes’ forwards were unable to find the range for an insurance goal that would have eased the pressure at Avaya Stadium.

“This team fought from beginning to end and we ended up getting the three points,” Lima said. “Getting the shutout shows the whole team has bought in. We were fighting, winning our set-piece battles, winning the second balls. I think at times, you saw that we were getting away from that and the guys were able to dig deep and get back to that.”

San Jose got back to winning behind a quality performance from Lima, who has been trying to get up to snuff as quickly as possible on the details of playing further up the pitch without exposing his three teammates on the back-line to unnecessary risk.

“When there’s three at the back then we’re kind of exploited if I’m not coming back or both me and the other wing-back are up,” Lima said. “We’ve just got to be aware. Game-by-game, because I’m still new at this position, I’m just trying to learn, cover film as much as possible. There’s little things, mistakes made today that I know and I’ll go back and try to improve on this week.”

The Quakes (8-9-5) held the Rapids without a shot on target in the second half, and ensured that they keep pace in the Western Conference playoff chase. Perhaps of equal importance: It washed out the taste from a 5-1 loss against the Red Bulls and 3-0 defeat in Seattle last week.

“Any time you lose a couple games, it doesn’t matter by how much, you’re going to have a bad feeling in your stomach,” Leitch said. “I thought this week wasn’t a really pleasant week, as you would imagine.”

Then came Lima’s opportunity, generated from a corner kick placed deliberately outside the penalty area as a change of pace. Shea Salinas’ delivery from the left side skimmed off the head of teammate Darwin Ceren and bounced to Lima, who took a touch to settle the ball before whistling a half-volley past Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

“It wasn’t exactly to plan, to be honest, but it was some iteration of it,” Leitch said of the play. “Close enough, in my book, any time it goes in.”