Fire shut out but still can advance in MLS is Back tournament with win
The team lost midfielder Luka Stojanovic to an apparent left leg injury late in the first half and had limited scoring chances all night.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Cristian Espinoza scored his first goal of the season early in the second half, Chris Wondolowski provided the clincher moments after coming on as a substitute and the Earthquakes beat the Fire 2-0 on Sunday night to clinch a spot in the MLS is Back tournament round of 16.
The Fire (1-2-1 overall) lost midfielder Luka Stojanovic to an apparent left leg injury late in the first half. They had limited scoring chances all night, their best coming in the 59th minute, when Robert Beric’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Daniel Vega.
The Fire still can advance to the knockout stage with a win over Vancouver in their final group match Thursday. They opened the tournament with a surprising 2-1 win over Seattle.
“I think the lesson is that in these games, you don’t have 10 chances; you have a few,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said. “You need to be clinical through open plays or through pressing and winning the balls, or set pieces when you have a few, you’ve got to be I think more concentrated and be better in the last 30 yards to actually then take advantage of the game.
“But otherwise, it was an expected hard game, physical game. Lots of challenges. For the most part of the game, we were well. We were well-organized, which is a good point. But yeah, overall, I think it was too hectic and we need to try to be more calm with the ball.”
San Jose (2-1-2 overall) clinched the top spot out of Group B after going unbeaten in its three matches in the group stage. The Earthquakes opened with a 0-0 draw against the Sounders before a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory over the Whitecaps when Shea Salinas scored in the eighth minute of stoppage time for the victory.
This time it was Espinoza providing the game-winner in the 56th minute. Midfielder Jackson Yueill found Espinoza free from his defender, and Espinoza’s left-footed shot beat Fire goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm.
Then Wondolowski added to his all-time record for goals scored in MLS. One minute after coming on as a sub, he was unmarked in the penalty area and headed Carlos Fierro’s cross into the net in the 83rd minute. It was his 161st goal in his 364 MLS matches.
The Earthquakes will have a week off before their next match July 27 against one of the third-place group teams that advances.