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Shaken, not stirred: San Jose Earthquakes 2, LAFC 1

League leaders face a setback in NorCal.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

LAFC’s seven-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday, as they lost 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Stadium.

Truthfully, LAFC were due a trap game, and after a narrow win earlier in the week over D.C. United, they found it in a major way in San Jose. And on this night, when they tried to summon the energy to mount a full comeback, they came up short.

As expected, Steve Cherundolo made plenty of changes to the XI to begin this match, with five new starters brought in: Sebastien Ibeagha, Ryan Hollingshead, Sebas Mendez (making his first start for the black-and-gold), Latif Blessing and Kwadwo Opoku. LAFC started the game with no Designated Players on the field.

The opening of the game was pretty cagey, with neither side getting any great looks off the bat. But it was San Jose who drew first blood, with Benji Kikanovic finishing from a feed by Tommy Thompson in the 15th minute to put the home side ahead 1-0.

After going down, LAFC struggled to test JT Marcinkowski in San Jose’s goal, with the best chance of the 1st half being a wicked shot from Cristian Arango in the 40th minute that clanged off the post before it bounced back out.

The teams went into the break with the Earthquakes leading 1-0, and honestly, it was deserved on the balance of play. LAFC had no shots on target in the first 45, and while Arango was lively, San Jose had the better chances overall. The only consolation was LAFC had another half to figure things out and try and get a result.

Somewhat surprisingly, Cherundolo stuck with his XI to begin the 2nd half, and they came good in the 54th minute, as Kellyn Acosta sent a lovely throughball to Opoku, who chipped Marcinkowski to tie up the match.

LAFC’s first subs came in the 64th minute, as Ilie Sanchez replaced Blessing, Carlos Vela entered for Hollingshead, and Jose Cifuentes joined the proceedings in place of Mendez. Almost immediately, Vela set up Opoku with his first touch, but Marcinkowski made a last-second block to keep it out of the goal.

It was not all smooth sailing for the visitors, with Sanchez picking up a yellow card and then making the nerviest of clearances, sending a ball just over LAFC’s goal as the Quakes were not ready to concede the game without a fight.

As the teams ran up and down the field, Gareth Bale substituted in for Opoku in the 76th minute, with LAFC really chasing a result for the first time he was on the field for them.

But the Quakes got the next goal, with Cade Cowell hitting a volley in the 77th minute to make it 2-1.

Shortly after, Sanchez picked up another yellow card, his second of the game, and he was ejected from the game in the 79th minute, LAFC left to try and get back into the game while down a man.

That pretty much sunk LAFC’s hopes, as they could not get out of their own half most of the rest of the way. Bale had a couple half-chances in the dying minutes, but LAFC were unable to find paydirt with another equalizer in stoppage time.

What went wrong in this game? LAFC lacked the sharpness that has been a hallmark the past few months, and it came back to bite them, hard. While the players who rotated in to start certainly are used to playing semi-regularly this season, there has to be some question about whether there were too many changes to keep the squad cohesion, or if the players just had a bad night, regardless. At the same time, even though the Quakes are near the bottom of the standings, they are not a bad team, and they tend to match up pretty well, and can hold their own in open games like the ones they play against LAFC. All in all, a one-off loss in the regular season is fine, but it can’t become a habit if they want to realize their lofty goals this year.

LAFC’s next game is a big one, as they will take on one of the few teams that have beaten them this season, and the only team they’ve lost to at home this season, when they take on Austin FC in Texas. It looks like Austin’s campaign to pip LAFC to the Supporters’ Shield is receding, but this would probably put a final blow on that effort, if LAFC took the equivalent fixture at Austin’s house. That game is next Friday, book it!

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