In the most important game of their four-month history, the San Francisco Deltas fell two goals behind the San Jose Earthquakes after just six minutes.
San Francisco built momentum following the early barrage but could not overcome the pair of quick finishes, losing 2-0.
The defeat knocked the Deltas, playing their first-ever competitive game against an MLS side, out of the U.S. Open Cup. They were one of three NASL teams to make it to the fourth round of the tournament.
“We were surprised by two goals that they took well,” San Francisco coach Marc Dos Santos said. “That’s the only part of the game that we actually felt inferior. … We created as many opportunities as they did. Their goalkeeper was very good tonight.”
In the fourth minute, San Jose forward Danny Hoesen drew a foul at the edge of the box after accelerating past a defender. His initial free kick struck the wall, but midfielder Jackson Yueill volleyed the rebound into the bottom right of the net.
Midfielder Cordell Cato slotted home another goal two minutes later, giving San Jose a 2-0 lead before San Francisco entered the Earthquakes box for the first time.
“We were just sleeping,” defender Nana Attakora said. “It’s sad because we played a 90-minute game and six minutes changed the whole game.”
The Deltas, who insisted this week that they wouldn’t alter their play despite being the road underdogs, pushed forward after the their uneven start. And as they searched for a breakthrough, Dos Santos changed their midfield formation to limit further Earthquakes counter attacks.
San Francisco’s aggression helped it regain a grip on the game and finish the first half with more shots (11) and shots on goal (4) than San Jose.
In the 16th minute, forward Danny Cruz earned a free kick that set off “Let’s go Deltas,” chants from the small contingent of travelling supporters in the north end of Avaya Stadium. But midfielder Kyle Bekker’s effort from the dead ball flew over the bar.
Bekker came closer five minutes later, forcing a fingertip save from San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell from a shot at the top of area. Cruz then failed to convert a pair of close-range chances before the break.
“Anytime you go down 2-0 after six minutes, it’s really tough,” Bekker said. “But I think we settled into the game. … We reacted as best we could.”
San Francisco goalkeeper Steward Ceus tipped a shot onto the bar in the 65th minute to keep game within reach, but the Deltas failed to cut into the deficit.
As the match concluded, the travelling Deltas fans continued to chant despite the disappointing result, leaving the expansion team with a lasting positive impression.
“It was fantastic, especially at the end,” Dos Santos said. “When we saw the fans and how they were … chanting for us, I felt like it was a big moment for the club. Hopefully it’s going to create awareness and hopefully people are going to realize more and more that there’s a professional soccer team in San Francisco.”