View fom the booth: That's football
The common missive after a game like the Quakes played Saturday night: "That's football." And of course it is. The beautiful game occasionally is the cruel game, and for the Quakes, in Columbus, it's like this most of the time, at least during the regular season.
You couldn't ask a team, on the road, to play with any more fire, with any more intensity. They took the game to the Crew, and what did they get? They got the middle of the donut, as they have for the last eleven regular season visits to Columbus.
Nice town. Nice people. Lousy results.
This 1-0 Quakes loss was particularly painful. They out-shot the Crew 14-5, 6-2 on goal. A Jeff Cunningham header on a smoking cross from Manteca native and former Santa Clara Bronco Eric Denton in the 69th minute, proved to be the only real serious Columbus threat and the only goal of the game.
"One mistake all night long and we lose," lamented defender and captain Jeff Agoos.
The 11-1 regular season home record against the Quakes notwithstanding, the Crew-men knew they had stolen one on their home field.
"We came out and played like the home team," said Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear. "We worked for each other and kept possession and kept going forward and we were defending well also."
And this was a game in which the injury list looked like a Who's Who: Troy Dayak, Ronnie Ekelund, Eddie Robinson, Chris Ronér, Todd Dunivant and Chris Brown. With Pat Onstad and Dwayne De Rosario in Wales with the Canadian National team, you could understand if the Quakes were to write this one off.
Not for a minute. With Landon Donovan in the midfield, and Jamil Walker joining Brian Ching up front, the Quakes attacked all night long and had plenty of chances to score.
"From minute one to minute 90, we kept possession and attacked and we just could not finish our chances" Kinnear said, as he watched his team fall to 3-3-3, and six points behind the Galaxy in the Western Conference.
In the end, the Quakes expect to play well every night, and will win a lot of games playing as well as they did Saturday night.
"With all the injuries and the lineup changes, I think the team has done well," said midfielder Richard Mulrooney. "During practice during the week, the guys take it seriously. They're waiting for their chance to play and the guys who have come in have made the best of the opportunity."
On this night, the Q's had the best of everything. Well, with the exception of the inability to finish any of those 14 shots, and the bad luck to give up a goal on a rare mistake. This is the kind of game that can affect the collective soul of the team, in a positive manner. A reminder that the game can be cruel and the hungry are those who get sustenance from it.
"That is soccer, though, when you don't finish your chances, it comes back to hurt you," said defender Ramiro Corrales, one of a handful of Quakes who had real good scoring chances. "I thought we deserved more tonight."
Though there were no points to be had on this night in Crew Stadium, a point was made: that this is still the most exciting team in the league, one that expects to win with the eleven guys on the field, whoever they are.
"Later on in the season you know your squad is healthy and it's deeper,"
Kinnear said. "You have 11 guys who can play and start at any given time."
In a year with the first round of World Cup Qualifying looming, and a season in which the Quakes have already suffered through innumerable injuries, experience is the key to winning.
As for this night in Columbus, it's an experience the Quakes don't want to live through very often.
John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.