Quakes approaching desperation mode as Portland visit
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It probably won’t merit a place in the “team records” section of San Jose’s 2012 media guide, but the Earthquakes’ 0-4-5 streak heading into their home match Saturday against the Portland Timbers (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) has set a new franchise record for consecutive MLS matches without a victory.
Quakes coach Frank Yallop went on the record last week as saying his team — which have taken just five wins in their first 22 matches this year — need six or seven more in their remaining 12 games to make the playoff cut, which seems like a bit of daunting mathematics.
Nevertheless, San Jose’s staff and players continue to answer in an aggressive affirmative whenever they’re asked, “Is this still a playoff team?”
“Yeah. Well, why not?” Yallop said. “Portland is just one point ahead of us; they just beat LA, which is a great result for them. That’s why it is very even. We’re just out of the playoff picture at the moment, but like I keep saying, you string three or four or five results together, you’re right in there.”
Certainly, if the Quakes were to go, say, 3-0-2 over their next five matches, their chances would look much rosier. But it can be hard for outsiders to see where that would that burst would come from, given that San Jose haven’t won in almost two full months.
“We really do have that belief, and we think we have the ability and mentality to get it done,” leading scorer Chris Wondolowski said. “We’re still right in the thick of things. This league, there’s so much parity. A lot of teams are going to beat other teams.”
That said, Wondolowski knows that the Quakes can’t afford to let any more chances slip away, beginning with a home match against an expansion Timbers side that’s playing for the third time in eight days and also sits directly above San Jose in the Western Conference standings, with a game in hand.
“We just have to start putting it together,” Wondolowski said. “We’re running out of time. We’ve got to stop talking about it and start actually taking action on it. If we do it, I think we’ll be in the playoffs.”
Although San Jose received significant reinforcements on their back line, the picture offensively remains a bit murky. Steven Lenhart remains on an indefinite family leave of absence, while Simon Dawkins (strained right hamstring) and Alan Gordon (strained right quadriceps) were only able to work out individually this week, making their availability unlikely.
Meanwhile, San Jose have been shut out in seven of their last nine matches. If not for Wondolowski’s brace against lowly Vancouver, the Quakes would be going on goal-less streak of more than a month.
“I think everyone has to go that extra five, 10 percent that we’ve been lacking and really just take it upon themselves to play to the best of their ability,” Quakes veteran Bobby Convey said. “We need to score goals, plain and simple. We haven’t been very creative recently. You can’t always just defend, defend, defend, because the other team will get chances to score.
“Collectively," he added, "we need to get better and more cutthroat when it comes to wanting to score goals and finishing opportunities.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes