AIK in USA: AIK 0 – San Jose Earthquakes 0
A scoreless draw kept AIK atop the tournament in Portland though the Gnaget will surely rue two great chances to defeat San Jose Earthquakes. Neither side could quite capitalize on mistakes though AIK created more chances than the Earthquakes. That was in part due to the man advantage the Swedish side carried for the final half-hour as Jed Zayner was sent of on the hour for his tackling of half-time substitute Daniel Gustavsson. Yet in the end, the match ended without a goal on a cold and rainy evening in Portland.
Both of the key chances fell to Kwame Karikari, including a header that hit the cross bar, the goalkeeper and the post before an Earthquakes defender cleared. “It looked like a goal. I thought his open goal was an even bigger chance. I think if he’d waited two touches he would have rolled it into the net,” said manager Andreas Alm after the game. The open goal came after Crespo and San Jose goalkeeper Evan Newton collided in the box with the ball bouncing directly to the Ghanian forward. The quick attempt flew over the bar just before the hour, leaving the match scoreless.
Less than five minutes later, AIK got their man advantage after Gustavsson slalomed through the San Jose defense before tumbling at the edge of the box by way of the last man’s contact. That saw Zayner off and highlighted the effectiveness of Gustavsson. “Lala [Atakora] was tired. It was set from the beginning that they were going to play a half each. Daniel had more pace in his legs,” Alm said of his most useful change on the night.
AIK made six changes to the line-up from Monday’s Chivas USA match with Sal Jobarteh, Nils-Eric Johansson, Nicklas Maripuu, Robert Åhman Persson, Kariri and Pontus Engblom all starting. Through substitutions, Edward Owusu and Christian Kouakou debuted in this tournament, replacing David Fällman and Crespo, respectively. The changes in the line-up reflected the need for rest for some players and the opportunity to use different players in various combinations. Despite the final result, Alm identified several areas where he was impressed: “Sal [Jobarteh], the right back, and Daniel [Gustavsson] were combining well. Pontus Engblom, the striker, had some good quality. He found some runs in deep, which he’s good at. I think the back four was good, all of them together. They didn’t give up that much and they were moving the ball. Also, I thought Niklas Maripuu and Robert Åhman Persson played quite well in the center [of midfield].”
Åhman Persson required an early exit when he crashed into Anthony Ampaipitakwong in the 76th minute. Robin Quaison, a starter on Monday, came into the match and nearly scored just moments afterward. Alm indicated that Åhman Persson’s injury was nothing to worry about, even jokingly referencing Monty Python’s famous Quest for the Holy Grail in saying, “It was just a flesh wound! Nothing serious.” Nor was Jobarteh’s heady injury judged to be terribly worrisome, after he needed replacing having knocked heads with Rodrigo López in the 85th minute. Martin Lorentzson replaced Jobarteh for the final five minutes.
The sending off changed the match from a scrappy tie to one where the Earthquakes largely sat back, content to see out the match without further issue. Alm was pleased that his team were more than capable defensively and again limited an MLS opponent to no clear goal scoring chances. Though disappointed his side could not do more with the man advantage, Alm seemed content to move forward to Sunday’s finale against Portland Timbers. With the Supercupen and regular season now just weeks away, deriving value from the few remaining pre-season matches is paramount.