After the final whistle ended his team’s 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, San Jose Earthquakes captain Ramiro Corrales started to make his way across the pitch at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
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He wore a large bag of ice on the inside of his left knee, the byproduct of a crashing challenge on Colorado’s Kosuke Kimura which knocked Corrales out of action in the 80th minute. Before long, a Rapids official brought a motorized cart to Corrales, who accepted a ride in the passenger seat rather than hobble all the way to the locker room.
It was an apt metaphor: the Quakes’ playoff chances, once so rosy, could also use a little help if the team hopes to get to the finish line.
By virtue of their inglorious defeat to the Rapids (7-5-6) and Toronto’s 2-1 win against Chivas USA, the Quakes have fallen to ninth place in the overall MLS standings, completely out of playoff position for the first time since April.
It’s not as though everything’s lost for the Quakes (6-6-5), who still have at least one game in hand on all the teams in front of them, including two more matches compared to Seattle (7-8-4), which sits two points above in the standings.
But San Jose has won just once since May 22, going 1-4-4 in its last nine matches. Combine the Colorado loss with last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to the Sounders and the Quakes have lost in back-to-back weeks against direct competitors for the playoffs.
“The bottom line is we just need to pick up points,” Busch said earlier this week. “It doesn’t matter who it’s against. We don’t really look at the stats and say, ‘Oh, we have to get the most points here, against this team and that team.’ We just need to pick up points.”
Ominously, the Quakes don’t seem to know how to generate the offense required to pick up such points. While it was heartening to see San Jose come out and maintain possession for much of the first 10 minutes, the Quakes never created any real scoring opportunities in that timeframe.
“[Colorado] did a great job of defending their final third,” Wondolowski said. “I thought we had a good amount of possession but we couldn’t quite find that last pass or touch that we needed. I think it just comes down to a lack of execution, and that’s on us.”
Of the three saves Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens was called on to make on Saturday, only one came from inside the penalty area – a cutback from Alvarez that he seemed to scuff a bit in the 70th minute. The other two were long-range explorations from Convey in the 73rd and 91st minutes, punched aside each time by Pickens.
Quakes general manager John Doyle is hoping Jamaican international Khari Stephenson, who should be signed this week, will stabilize the central midfield. Doyle also hopes he can find a suitable attacking candidate from four or five possibilities he’s looking at to fill San Jose’s last remaining roster spot.
Whomever it may be, help – like that post-game cart ride for Corrales – can’t come soon enough.
“We are down to bare bones a bit with our squad, we will have to see what happens with the injuries,” Yallop said. “At home, we really have to start getting results. That is what it comes down to.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes