As the rain masked the pitch in a sleek sheen and turned the Earthquakes numberless jerseys from a royal blue to navy, screams of excitement and sighs of relief poured out from the stands in the 43rd minute.
The first goal at Avaya Stadium had just been scored—not by an Earthquake but by Omar Gonzalez, a defender for the rival LA Galaxy, in his own goal.
Forty years of not having a stadium to call your own gone in one strike.
The stadium is now home for the Earthquakes and its fans, who witnessed a 3–2 win over its in-state rival the Galaxy in the stadium’s opening game.
The game served as a warmup for the team but also a test run for the new venue.
“It is really designed to get the kinks out of our system,” said Earthquakes President David Kaval. “It’s a nice way to shake out the building and make sure on March 22 when we have the first inaugural match it’s a grand slam home run.”
There were no issues involving the field or the venue themselves.
“The field played brilliantly,” forward Chris Wondolowski said.
The tune-up game at Avaya Stadium was limited to an attendance of 10,000 people, even though the capacity of the Earthquake’s new home is 18,000.
This was the final preseason game for the Earthquakes and a test facing the defending champions and reigning league MVP Robbie Keane.
“It’s motivating facing him (Keane),” said Earthquakes Honduran center back Victor Bernardez. “We know his quality but it is not just Robbie Keane, it’s the Galaxy.”
Keane’s presence along with the rest of the Galaxy’s offense served as a test for some of the Earthquakes young players such as Paulo Renato and Fatai Alashe.
Alashe was the Earthquakes first-round pick this season.
The team seems to be adapting to the new coaching staff well and hopes to continue progressing, according to Bernardez.
The Earthquakes have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Gonzalez scored in the 43rd minute of the game in his own goal off a deflection.
The second half is when the Earthquakes seized the victory. Stanford product Koval pierced the opposition’s goal with a shot off a headed pass in the 58th minute. The assist came from U.S. Men’s National Team forward Wandolowski.
The Galaxy responded soon after with a header by Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal that made the game 2–1.
Koval’s college teammate Adam Jahn extended the Earthquake’s lead to 3–1 off a corner kick with a header that left the Galaxy goalkeeper defenseless.
Keane closed the count for the game with a left-footed shot that found itself in the back of the net to make it 3–2.
The Quakes finished the preseason with a 7-2-1 record and will open the regular season on the road against FC Dallas on Saturday.