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San Jose Earthquakes jump into first place in Western Conference

SAN JOSE — It has been almost a decade since the San Jose Earthquakes looked down at their Western Conference opponents.

But after Jackson Yueill and Cade Cowell led the team to a 4-1 victory Saturday night against D.C. United, the Quakes are in first place and rolling.

Yueill scored twice — including one worthy of goal of the week — and Cowell had a goal and two assists as San Jose (2-1-0) has a +4 goal differential after consecutive home victories at PayPal Park.

The Quakes also got a goal from newcomer Javier Eduardo Lopez, better known as "Chofis," who scored in the first minute.

Perhaps the most promising element in the victory is how the Quakes were far from perfect. They weathered small mistakes, including one by goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski in the 84th minute.

Central defender Florian Jungwirth raced to the backline to boot a sure-goal away to keep it 3-1. Yueill scored his second goal on a header a minute later on Cowell's nifty serve into the penalty box.

Jungwirth's save followed a similar play a week earlier by Carlos Fierro, underscoring the kind of effort the players give coach Matias Almeyda in his third year in San Jose.

"It brings me joy to see the team growing, always keeping in mind that there are things that can be corrected," he said in Spanish. "This is only one victory and there is still much more ahead."

Many Quakes' fans are enjoying the growth of Cowell, 17, who scored for the second consecutive game. The Central Californian appears on his way to the U.S. national team if he continues to show explosive skills in zooming past defenders to score like he did in the 26th minute.

Cowell is the youngest player in MLS history to get a goal and an assist in consecutive games, according to the Quakes.

"The most difficult thing in soccer is to maintain that level of performance," Almeyda said.

Cowell credited Almeyda for giving him the confidence to play within himself and not fret over mistakes.

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable on the ball and I feel more freedom to make mistakes and not try to be so perfect," he told reporters. "I'm still learning how to do one-touch passes, checking in, and all that. But I definitely am more comfortable the more I play so that helps a lot."

San Jose plays next Friday at second-place Real Salt Lake (2-0-0, + 2 goal differential).

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