San Jose Earthquakes hold out hope in playoff race even as chances start to fade

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes hadn’t dropped a point at home since May 18, posting six straight victories at two different Bay Area venues.

So even as time wound down and the Buck Shaw Stadium scoreboard remained stubbornly stuck at 0-0 Saturday night, the Quakes were feeling that winning momentum would help carry them past the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Instead, San Jose peppered the visitors’ goal with 22 shots, only to come away with a netful of frustrations in the scoreless draw.

“I think that we were expecting three points, and it’s definitely a letdown to get a tie here,” Quakes forward Alan Gordon admitted. “We needed three points.”

They pocketed only the one after failing to get a goal against a Vancouver defense which came in with one lone road shutout this season – and that was against goal-starved D.C. United.

The outcome ended San Jose’s six-match home winning streak -- although their 14-game home unbeaten run in still intact -- and left last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners five points off the playoff pace with only five games to go. The Quakes (10-11-8) remain tied in seventh place with Vancouver (10-10-8) on 38 points, with Portland (10-5-13) holding fifth at 43.

“It’s getting tight,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “It always seems every year, whether it’s us or other teams, that you get to this time of the season and points are tough to come by. . . . Vancouver’s scrapping for the same points we are. So games may not be as open as they are earlier in the season, because everybody knows how important the points are.”

Gordon’s snapped header from a Shea Salinas corner kick in the 19th minute set up the Quakes to take the lead, when Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted could only manage a weak parry. But San Jose defender Clarence Goodson skied his open chance on the rebound from 4 yards out. The Quakes would never come as close again.

“I thought there were a lot of positives to take out of tonight,” Quakes interim head coach Mark Watson said. “But ultimately, if you don’t score goals, you can’t win games. And we need to do a better job of that.”

Even though Watson allowed that “some of the other results didn’t go our way” among Western Conference clubs on Saturday, he claimed his club’s confidence remains fine with regards to making the playoffs.

“It was a big game tonight,” Watson said. “We really needed the three points, so I think guys are disappointed. But . . . in the run-in, there’s a lot of teams in that little zone [in the standings] playing against each other. We know there’s still enough points to meet our objective, so we’ll be very positive with the remaining games.”