San Jose Earthquakes seek new spark as attacking woes drag on: "We need to find other options"
After spending the first half with the wind at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park blowing rain in their collective face, the San Jose Earthquakes emerged from their locker room on Saturday to find an unhappy surprise – and perhaps an allegory for how their season has gone thus far.
“It switched at half,” San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski said of the conditions during San Jose’s scoreless draw with the Colorado Rapids. “We went against the wind both halves, I promise you. It was one of those unreal things. It just kind of sums us up: that we were literally going into the wind both ways.”
Certainly the stats bear that out. Although Alan Gordon banged a corner-kick header off the crossbar in the opening minute, San Jose finished the match with no shots on goal.
While a road point is always a valuable commodity, there was a feeling for outside observers that the Earthquakes were perhaps too defensive in their new 4-1-4-1 formation to generate enough offense.
“We wanted to be defensively solid, and I think we did that,” San Jose coach Mark Watson told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Going forward, it’s still a work in progress. I thought we had some good attacking situations, but just lacked that quality in the final third.
"We had a great chance in the first 30 seconds off a set piece, and then some other situations where we won the ball in good spots and just didn’t have that little bit of quality that you need to break teams down. We’ll continue to work on both sides of the ball.”
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One reason San Jose did not seem as overtly dynamic as in previous matches was a distinct lack of overlapping runs from their outside backs. Ty Harden, who subbed in on the left side for the injured Jordan Stewart and Shaun Francis, is a converted center back and much more of a stay-at-home option. Andreas Görlitz, who debuted on the right, reined himself in from going forward to ensure he did not aggravate his hamstring injury.
“That’s a big part of our game, especially with our wingers up there,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “When you have that overlapping, it makes defenders make decisions and it causes confusion and gives us other options. Shea [Salinas] was getting double-teamed basically the whole time. We didn’t do a good enough job of finding other options and helping him out. I think that’s something that we’ve already been addressing this week and that we will continue to.”
How they will address it is another question entirely. With Steven Lenhart recovering from a knee injury, Adam Jahn suspended and Gordon an injury question mark, the Quakes might not have any natural target men to lead their attack against Chivas USA on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
That could necessitate the use of Wondolowski up top or the insertion of first-year Quake Billy Schuler, who has yet to make an MLS appearance.
“Part of the week of training is training the guys, but also figuring out who’s going to be fit and healthy for the game,” Watson said. “We’ve got a lot of options. We’ll look at the personnel and who’s healthy. And then we’ll look at Chivas and figure out the best way forward.
"Billy Schuler is someone who’s done really well and deserves some time. Obviously Wondo’s there, and we’ve got a bunch of guys who can slide in.”
One other positive: Saturday's weather report for Buck Shaw Stadium calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 63 degrees, with a maximum wind of just 17 mph.