Quakes' run comes to end in KC as finishing evades them
It took 48 days, but on Friday night, the San Jose Earthquakes finally lost another match.
In the nearly seven weeks that San Jose had gone unbeaten, they won four times and tied twice, dragging themselves from last place in the Western Conference to sixth — and inside the playoff cut line.
That’s what the Quakes chose to look back on Friday after becoming the first victim at Livestrong Sporting Park, beaten 1-0 by Sporting Kansas City on the strength of C.J. Sapong’s first-half goal.
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“We can look at the work we’ve done over the last several weeks and be proud of [creating] a foundation of what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to play,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “We weren’t going to win every game for the rest of the season, so it’s important that we really lick our wounds and really understand some things that we could have done better, get back to work and hopefully start another streak next week.”
Perhaps No. 1 on the list of “Things We Could Have Done Better” was “Put the ball in the back of the net.” This was the first time the Quakes — who came into the night leading MLS in terms of goals per match — have been shut out since April 30.
Not coincidentally, that match also marked their last loss, 1-0 at Philadelphia.
And that’s why, when asked what he thought was the difference between Friday’s performance and his team’s previous six games, Quakes coach Frank Yallop invoked the fates.
“[It was] a bit of luck, to be honest,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought we created some great chances to score, some good situations around the goal. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our night tonight.”
One reason for that was San Jose’s propensity for committing too many turnovers, especially of the unforced variety. The Quakes are no longer the possession-based team they tried to be to start the season, but that doesn’t excuse them from giving the ball away in every area of the pitch.
“Kansas City was very good at pressuring the ball,” Hernandez said. “The heat played a little bit of a factor. Guys get a little tired, their brains get a little fried. I thought we could have moved a little better off the ball in showing for one another. At times in the game, when we made it a point to really show for each other and make angles and really be dynamic going forward, I thought you could tell the difference like night and day.”
Sporting Kansas City, having not missed out on the fact that Steven Lenhart tallied his first career hat trick and even added an assist last week against D.C. United, worked hard to take away the Quakes’ target striker. San Jose’s offense — also missing 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski — sputtered until the halftime insertion of Simon Dawkins.
The Tottenham Hotspur loanee keyed San Jose’s resurgence coming out of intermission, and almost tallied in the 55th minute, with a shot just wide of the near post from eight yards, and the 79th, when Jimmy Nielsen turned aside his 30-yard blast.
“Simon could have scored two goals,” Yallop said. “If he scores those two, we’re having a different conversation right now.”
He didn’t, however, and now the Quakes will have to make do with building on a different streak next Saturday when the LA Galaxy come to visit Buck Shaw Stadium. San Jose will be looking for a fourth consecutive win at home, having beaten Houston, New England and Columbus in their most recent matches there.
“We’ve lost one game in seven, so that’s a good stat,” Yallop said. “We don’t want to lose any more in a row, obviously, but you’re going to lose games. That’s why we play. We’ve just got to bounce back and make sure we put this behind us and look at the performance as an individual thing.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes