Quakes vow to stay humble despite prolific '12 campaign

Alan Gordon

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Alan Gordon cocked a skeptical eyebrow at a reporter asking him to comment on his inch-perfect pass to spring Simon Dawkins for the first goal in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 4-1 romp past the Colorado Rapids last Saturday.

“What do you want me to do,” asked Gordon, who bagged a brace as well as the assist, “brag about myself?”

Well, yes – because if ever there was a good time for the Quakes to crow, now would be it.

With 52 goals in 26 matches, San Jose are bidding to become the first MLS squad to average 2.00 goals per match in 11 years. Ten teams cracked that barrier in the league’s first six seasons, when the defending from bottom-of-the-table clubs was often suspect, but since then, there hasn’t been a single one.

Quakes drop four on Colorado

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Quakes are the first team to score 52 goals through their first 26 matches since the Miami Fusion and LA Galaxy ended the 2001 season – which was only 26 games long – on 57 and 52 goals, respectively.

A minimum of 16 goals over the final eight matches would put the Quakes among the league’s 11 most prolific attacks, historically speaking. (The MLS all-time mark seems safe; San Jose would need 39 goals in the final two months to top the 1998 Galaxy’s mark of 2.66 per match.)

While having Chris Wondolowski and his league-leading 18 goals plays a big part in the Quakes attack, Wondolowski tied for first last year on 16, San Jose had just 40 goals all told in 2011, meaning the jump in production is coming elsewhere.

“You need a few of the defenders to get a few on set plays,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “You need each guy to contribute. You can’t have just one guy scoring all the goals. We started off the year kind of like that, but then Alan started to catch fire. [Steven Lenhart] had a good spell.

“What I love about the guys that don’t get a chance to play [is that] they’ve been really focused and really behind the team and can’t wait for the opportunity, and when they get it, they seize it, which is great.”

Adding full-strength seasons from Gordon, who was injured when he arrived via trade with Toronto midway through last year, and Lenhart, who missed the second half of 2011 due to personal issues, has had a huge impact, as witnessed by career-best goal totals for each this year.

Not that Gordon is going to cop to it.

“Everybody’s doing a good job out there,” Gordon told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got nobody bigger than the team, and it’s got to stay that way. Once we start getting big heads and egos, that’s when things start breaking up. We’re a good team right now, and we’ve just got to keep it going and not look for individual glory.”

With the success San Jose are having, there’s been something of a positive feedback loop set up in terms of including all facets of the roster. Defensive midfielder Sam Cronin moved smartly into open space to set up Dawkins’ second goal against Colorado. Left back Ramiro Corrales also stepped up to cut off a loose ball and deliver a looping header for Gordon to hammer home.

Since the Quakes have been shut out only twice in 26 matches, San Jose’s defensive-minded players don’t have to get wound up too tightly about keeping their own clean sheet – allowing them to take prudent attacking risks with high-reward potential.

“It’s a good feeling coming into a game knowing that your team’s going to create goals and create chances,” Cronin told MLSsoccer.com. “It relieves a little pressure and helps us guys in the midfield and the back to do our jobs and try to lock it down as best we can, because the guys up front will take care of it.”

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