In the days leading up to Saturday’s match at San Jose, Revolution center back A.J. Soares was well aware of the challenge he and his teammates would face at Buck Shaw Stadium.
With Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart forming one of the best forward partnerships in the league, Soares and his fellow defenders may have bent, but they didn’t break and as result, the Revolution were able to secure a 2-1 comeback win over the Earthquakes.
“We wanted to get pressure on the ball and alter their service,” Soares told the media after the match. “They like to get the ball with time and loft services up to their big guys up top. With that being said, when they lofted it up, we dealt with it.”
It’s no secret that San Jose’s bread and butter is winning the aerial battles inside the box. And while that may be common knowledge to anyone who’s watched what the Earthquakes have in recent years, doing something to stop it is another matter entirely.
But that’s precisely what Soares and his fellow defenders did on Saturday. The fourth-year center back collected a team-best six aerial duel wins, while his partner in the heart of the defense -- Jose Goncalves -- collected four of his own. As a result, the Earthquakes were forced to keep the ball on the carpet.
“Jose and I won the aerial battle all night,” Soares said. “It is just the way they play. With other teams who keep the ball, it is a whole different problem you deal with. You look at the film and you look at their strength, and you try and limit it.”
They may have limited it for the most part, but Wondolowski managed to find a measure of success nevertheless. In the 69th minute, Yannick Djalo tried to force one through deep inside the Revolution box before his shot deflected off the foot of Goncalves. But the ball fell right to Wondolowski, who did what he does best from close range: put it in the back of the net.
With the score knotted at one apiece with just over 20 minutes to go, San Jose smelled blood. They sent waves into the Revolution end in the hopes of authoring another of their patented comeback wins.
But in a plot twist that no one saw coming, the self-monikered “Goonies” would be, well, out-Goonied by the opposition on Saturday.
With the Revolution defense holding firm, the match extended into the third minute of stoppage time, where Lee Nguyen would grab a pass from Scott Caldwell on a quick restart in the midfield and, seconds later, slot it past Jon Busch to score the game-winner in front of a stunned San Jose crowd.
One person who wasn’t shocked was Soares, who grew up in the Bay Area and felt right at home at Buck Shaw Stadium. With that confidence surely bolstering his performance, the Revolution center back took the comeback win in stride when it was all said and done.
“I’m happy with the performances that we have had; that is all that I am concerned about right now,” Soares said. “We have four points and we are going to build on it and move forward. We are confident but we were confident last week and the week before. Nothing has changed. We are used to winning now. We are going to move forward and get more points.”