New San Jose Earthquakes defender Oswaldo Alanis is no stranger to scoring off of free kicks, especially in big situations.
Saturday was no exception.
With San Jose down 2-1 in the final seconds, Alanis opened his MLS tally in the most dramatic way possible, perfectly scoring off of a free kick, curving it past Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westburg and into the top corner of the far post to help the Earthquakes scavenge a 2-2 draw in their home opener.
“We have a certain personality and he was enthusiastic and showed why we brought him here,” Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda said. “I think the beginning for any player at any club like the one he had today was what players dream about.”
Almeyda witnessed Alanis score on another perfect free kick to the far post when both were with Chivas Guadalajara two years ago in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Seattle, then sending Chivas to the CCL semifinals. That one he hit a bit more straight on and about 10 yards further than this one.
Saturday’s goal needed a bit more curve.
“I know Alanis. That’s not the first goal he’s scored off of a free kick,” Almeyda said.
Alanis admitted afterward that his free kicks are somewhat routine.
“I have tried those shots and have made some goals and some that were almost goals,” he said. “So I was just think shoot the best I can to try to help the team, and if I shot well, then maybe it’s a goal or maybe a teammate and also can score the goal.”
Alanis’ highlight-worthy free-kick equalizer was set up by Cristian Espinoza, who drew the foul in the final seconds just outside of Toronto’s 18-yard box.
“It was a play that I just didn’t get a chance to do throughout the whole game,” Espinoza explained. “Every time I had the ball, I had two or three people marking me. And, fortunately, it turned out to be a free kick which Oswaldo got a chance and scored the goal.
“The decision for him to kick it at the moment was something that we’ve been training for throughout the week.”
Even Chris Wondolowski – who played in the final home opener of his career – was slightly impressed with Alanis’ shot, although he’s fully aware of his shooting ability.
“We’ve seen him shoot,” Wondolowski said. “I’ve seen him strike a ball. It’s pretty impressive how well he can strike a ball. So, I can’t say I was thoroughly surprised, but at the same time, I liked it when it hit the back of the net.”
Outside of his free kick, Alanis impressed Almeyda with his play on the pitch on Saturday, saying that he “played 95 good minutes,” despite the result.
Almeyda was also quick to remind everyone that coming back from a 2-0 deficit as the Earthquakes did Saturday isn’t easy, and that he knows that San Jose still has some things to fix as the season starts to get underway.
“Today I saw the numbers, the stats and we had control of the game,” Almeyda said. “Overcoming a 2-0 result in modern football is not easy. So maybe we’re missing a couple of things, but I’ll take away what the team put in.”