Quakes earn crucial win over Houston to improve playoff chances


SAN JOSE — It was a must-win game for the Earthquakes. The players knew it. The coaches knew it. The fans knew it.

Danny Hoesen decided to do something about it.

The Quakes came out hunting for an early goal against the Houston Dynamo. After a couple of close calls by Vako and Marco Urena that just missed the target, Hoesen brought the crowd at Avaya Stadium to its feet with a beauty of a goal in the 33rd minute that ended up being the difference-maker in Saturday’s 1-0 victory.

Hoesen’s goal materialized after Kofi Sarkodie provided him with a perfect cross from the right side of the field. The dutch striker stopped the pass with his right foot, then seamlessly transferred the ball to his left foot for a booming strike that flew past Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric and found the left side of the net.

It was Hoesen’s third goal of the season, but none have been bigger from the first-year Quake as this one sealed the victory and leapfrogged San Jose over Houston, FC Dallas, and Real Salt Lake into a playoff spot at fifth place in the Western Conference with five games remaining.

Given the circumstances surrounding the two clubs in the standings heading into the matchup, forward Marco Urena felt anything less than victory over Houston would have been a failure. Two of his near-goals that sailed just over the top of the post late in Saturday’s win highlighted the aggressiveness displayed by the Quakes as they battle to end a four-year playoff drought.

“If we want to make the playoffs, we have to win at home,” Urena said before the game. “It’s our last chance to fight for a spot and we’re all conscious of the fact that this game with Houston is a must-win. The most important thing is to get three points at home.”

Francois Affolter returned to the Quakes starting lineup after a hamstring injury kept him out of the previous two matches and provided stability on defense. After allowing four goals in an ugly loss to Toronto the previous match, Affolter helped keep Erick Torres and the rest of a dangerous Dynamo offense in check. San Jose held Houston to just four shots in the first half, with only one of those on target.


— QUAKES IN GOOD POSITION FOR POSTSEASON: Now in fifth place with Saturday’s victory, the Quakes (11-12-6, 39 points) will finish the year with three of their final five games at home, where the club is 8-1-5 on the season.

— Chris Wondolowski made his 251st career appearance for the Quakes, passing Ramiro Corrales for most appearances in club history.


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