Vako Qazaishvili was the difference maker for the San Jose Earthquakes in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in a topsy-tuvy affair with the Sacramento Republic (USL Championship) at San Jose’s Avaya’s Stadium. Qazaishvili scored two late goals in the second half to give the Earthquakes a lead they would not give up, and to give them a third straight tournament win over the Republic.
With a 4-3 win, the Earthquakes, who have never won the US Open Cup, advance to the Round of 16 for the second time in the last three years
With close to 90 degree temperatures at kickoff, both sides took it to one another in the opening 45 minutes.
Sacramento Republic started brighter and in the 2nd minute were able to capitalize as the Quakes failed to clear after a cross by Villyan Bijev. Stanford University men’s soccer alum, Sam Werner was able to slot home after the mixup giving the Republic a 1-0 lead. It was the fastest US Open Cup goal in Sacramento history and Werner’s second of the tournament.
Soon after the quick strike, the home side responded. Magnus Eriksson picked up the ball in the Sacramento half, moved onto his left foot at the top of the 18 and smashed a shot low, which beat Josh Cohen to the left tying the match in the 10th minute.
On the 15th minute mark, the visitors won a free kick just outside the area. Villyan Bijev showed some class, quality and true marksmanship to knock one over the wall to restore the advantage for Sacramento at 2-1. Bijev’s probing runs and ability to unlock were key to Republic FC’s success in the first half.
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As San Jose searched for its own equalizer, Tommy Thompson had acres of space down the right about eight minutes from the halftime whistle. On the right back’s run, he stopped, turned, beat his defender Bijev and continued towards goal. However, Thompson was then brought down by Bijev seconds later as the referee pointed to the spot. After a quick consultation and summit by the Quakes attacking players, Cristian Espinoza took charge of the penalty and dispatched it nicely to level the match at 2-2. On the halftime break, the match had a proper cup tie feel.
The second half started far better for the home side, their movement was free flowing and they took charge. Vako was inserted in the 55th minute and San Jose changed personnel to allow the Georgian to play in the attacking midfield position. Vako had space, time on the ball to think, question and create.
A buildup in the 62nd minute led to a Tommy Thompson shot that sprung Cohen into life, in what would have been another lovely strike during the evening. However in the 78th minute, Vako popped up outside the 18 on the left slotting away the go ahead goal, which took a deflection off of a Sacramento Republic defender on it’s way in.
He didn’t quit either.
In stoppage time, Vako made space for himself inside the 18 on the right and scored a wonderful individual goal, which would end up being the match winner.
Moments later, Sacramento answered with a Drew Skundrich goal deep into stoppage time as Tarbell parried the ball right into his pathway. With about 45 seconds left, the referee blew for full time as it was, too little too late for the Sacramento Republic.
The Earthquakes move onto the Fifth Round for the third time in five years and await their next opponent which they’ll find out Thursday. They earn their third win a row vs Sacramento Republic in U.S. Open Cup play after Sacramento has had leads in every cup match the two sides have ever played.
San Jose is treating the Open Cup like a major trophy this year under first-year head coach Matias Almeyda. They’ve turned a corner in the league and have put together a very nice run of form over the last couple of months after a nervy start to the year.
On the U.S. Open Cup, Almeyda said: “We need to be serious about every match we play,” said Almeyda about the US Open Cup. “We need to do that out of respect for the fans who paid for tickets. This coaching staff lives this sport through passion, and we respect the team directors who gave us this opportunity.”
“It felt good,” said Espinoza. “It’s similar to what happens in the Copa de Argentina. It’s the same thing. You always go with teams in a lower division, and sometimes it’s the hardest game to prepare for. These games are probably harder, but we knew that if we were focused and we concentrated, we can win.”