Earthquakes feel heartened despite defeat to Houston

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Jose Earthquakes may be 1-1 on the year, but they feel like they’re batting closer to 1.000 after their trip to San Francisco’s baseball mecca.

Despite dropping a 1-0 decision to the Houston Dynamo at AT&T Park on Saturday, the Quakes were heartened, not downcast, at the way they performed. With Houston’s goal hinging on a controversial penalty-kick call and several near-misses for San Jose’s attack, there was a definite feeling of “stay the course” running through the Quakes.

“It was a weird feeling, coming off the field in the second half,” San Jose winger Shea Salinas said, “because we played so well, it didn’t completely feel like a loss, and you look at the scoreboard and we didn’t get any points out of it. We played well. If we keep playing like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

HIGHLIGHTS: San Jose 0, Houston 1

That didn’t happen Saturday because the Quakes were unable to cash in, despite generating several good, if not gold-plated, attempts on goal — especially in a frenetic second half when Marvin Chávez (46th minute), Tressor Moreno (63rd) and Sercan Güvenisik (80th) came on to boost San Jose’s attack.

“All you can do is create chances,” said Chris Wondolowski, who was credited with five shots, two on goal. “Sometimes that touch comes, sometimes it doesn’t. Last game, we had one shot on goal, and we scored it. This game, we made them make five saves, a couple others we didn’t hit on frame, and you lose 1-0. It’s a funny game like that.”

Wondolowski tried to take personal responsibility for the defeat, saying he might have had a hat trick on a different day.

First, the 2010 Golden Boot winner and 2011 MLS co-leader nearly put San Jose up in the eighth minute when Houston’s defense allowed him to take control of a long throw from Ramiro Corrales. With his momentum carrying him towards the endline, Wondolowski’s against-the-grain shot with the outside of his right foot caromed off the post.

In the 61st minute, Steven Lenhart skillfully knocked down a long pass from Corrales to spring Wondolowski, but the ensuing shot was blotted out by charging Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.

And in second-half injury time, Wondolowski drilled a free kick from 20 yards that appeared to catch the hand of Houston midfielder Adam Moffat, but no call was forthcoming.

Wondolowski never got a chance to complete what might have been his best opportunity to score. After Moreno’s through ball set Salinas scampering down the left wing in the 81st minute, Wondolowski snuck in unmarked at the far post. Salinas mis-hit his attempted cross, however, and the ball skimmed wide of the near post.

“I don’t think we need to change anything,” Wondolowski said. “We are creating opportunities. If I had those three or four chances next game, and I’m a betting man, I’m betting a lot of money that I’m scoring those. I should score those, and that’s why it hurts so bad that I didn’t score those.

Quakes coach Frank Yallop felt his team played better than it did in beating New England 1-0 last weekend, especially in the second half — even as he acknowledged that sentiment was a hollow consolation prize.

“There’s a reason why we didn’t score, and I don’t know exactly what it is, but we didn’t score a goal,” Yallop said. “We have to find a way to do that.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.