CARSON, Calif. — Things are falling nicely into place for the San Jose Earthquakes, who have been astoundingly good since the start of April and climbed to fourth place in the Western Conference — even on points with third-place Seattle — with a most emphatic and comprehensive victory Friday night over California Clasico rivals LA Galaxy.
The Quakes, who are 9-3-4 since starting the campaign with four successive losses, were dominant most of the way after falling behind in the second minute, finally pushing ahead as Vako and Danny Hoesen hit the net three minutes apart a little more than an hour into the clash at Dignity Health Sports Park.
They've become the go-to finishers as the Quakes, as Chris Wondolowski put it, are “starting to hit our stride.”
“That's one of the things that's special about this group,” Wondolowski said after the Quakes put 16 shots on frame against LA. “It's next man up, and they're playing wonderfully right now.
“Vako, I'm so proud of him. He could have easily kind of shut down, He wasn't getting minutes early in the season, and it was tough for him, but instead of shutting down, he was still working harder and [is now] playing some of his best I've seen him play. And Danny, he's coming in as a sub, but he should be a starter. It's pretty cool to see, it's great to see him get his rewards.”
Vako played the key role in all three goals against the Galaxy and after only seeing 125 minutes of action over nine games in April and May, has eight goals and three assists across all competitions
Hoesen, back from a hamstring injury, has netted five goals this year including ones in his last two matches.
They've been particularly valuable as Wondolowski has struggled to find the net, aside from that four-game stretch in May and June in which he tallied eight times, pushing past Landon Donovan as Major League Soccer's all-time goals leader.
They're feasting on an attacking scheme that involves everyone except perhaps goalkeeper Daniel Vega and center backs Florian Jungwirth and Guram Kashia. First-year Quakes coach Matias Almeyda emphasizes the collective, and the ball movement among the front runners, outside backs and midfielders — with Vako's and Argentine winger Cristian Espinoza's creativity and dynamism unlocking opposing defenses — is making San Jose one of the toughest sides to slow down.
“We have a lot of discipline and we know what to do defensively,” Hoesen said. “But when we have the ball, we have a lot of freedom. Vako is so creative that you have to be ready, because you can expect the ball. He's on fire after Wondo scored a lot of goals in that short stretch, and I'm happy to be back from an injury, and I feel good as well.”
Vako and Hoesen succeeding is part of the whole that Almeyda has constructed. Everyone is a partner.
“We just like to go fight for each other,” Hoesen said. “If somebody is out of position, another one takes over, and we're willing to get hurt for each other. Let me say it that way. That's an amazing thing to have as a team, and we're starting to believe we can keep going this way.
“I don't believe we're going to win all games, you know, but even if we lose a game, we continue the same way, and we still keep believing.”