SAN JOSE, Calif. - It's often said that the best way to forget a poor performance is to play another match as quickly as possible. For the San Jose Earthquakes, this week's midweek tilt against the Colorado Rapids affords precisely that kind of opportunity.
Last Friday's dismantling at the hands of D.C. United was easily San Jose's worst match of the season, and it marked the first time this year that the Earthquakes had been beaten by more than a single goal. But given the Quakes' showing, the 3-0 scoreline was an accurate reflection of the night's proceedings.
San Jose's play was littered with errors, both mental and physical. Simple passes went yards wide of their intended target. Marking was slack at critical times, and the intensity with which San Jose normally pressures the ball was absent. Head coach Dominic Kinnear said a variety of factors were at work, but the primary culprit was fatigue that came from playing their third consecutive road game.
"Physically, I just think the guys were running on empty," said Kinnear. "Usually our passing and our movement off the ball is something that we're pretty darn good at. It's hard to pass the ball well when guys are tired."
To that end, Kinnear has emphasized rest as a means of getting his side back to their aggressive, ball-hawking ways. A scheduling quirk that saw the match played on Friday instead of Saturday allowed the Quakes to get an extra day's rest over the weekend, and Monday's training session, while intense, was shortened to give the players even more recovery time.
Road weariness aside, the San Jose players are eager to erase any memories of last weekend's rout.
"I think over the course of the season you're going to have games like we had on Friday. You just have to make sure you don't have many of them, and definitely not two in a row," said Earthquakes captain Wade Barrett. "So we're pretty focused on having a better team performance on Wednesday."
One player who won't get that chance is defender Danny Califf, who will be suspended for Wednesday's match due to an accumulation of yellow cards, the last of which came late in Friday's encounter. Kinnear indicated that Ryan Cochrane has recovered sufficiently from ankle and hip injuries to slide into the center of defense alongside Eddie Robinson.
Robinson, who has been one of San Jose's steadier performers this season, has also been coping with an injury in the form of a tender right hamstring. The Quakes defender sat out much of Monday's training session as a precautionary measure, but should be available for Wednesday's game.
San Jose will be facing a Colorado side that they have beaten twice this season, but both contests were tight affairs decided by 1-0 scores. On this occasion, both sides will be missing a player each due to Gold Cup duty. The Rapids will be without midfielder Pablo Mastroeni while the Quakes will be missing winger Brad Davis.
The game will see San Jose go up against former goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who always seems to deliver a solid performance against his old side. At the other end of the field, Colorado marksman Jeff Cunningham will draw the majority of the attention from the Quakes backline, but Barrett indicated that his side will be more focused on their own game.
"We got a little stretched out, a little disorganized, and that's why we gave up the goals last weekend," said Barrett. "We'll need to do a better job of that."
While victory is always the primary motivation, an additional incentive could come in the form of a collective All-Star snub that saw no San Jose players named to the team that will face Fulham FC of the English Premier League on July 30. The Quakes have been one of the surprise teams of this season, and have enjoyed excellent performances from the likes of Robinson and Davis. But neither player was deemed worthy of selection.
"That definitely makes us a little bit more frustrated and angry," said Robinson. "We've been a team to be reckoned with this year. We've got the MLS Cup in our sights and [the snub] has just added to the fire, for sure."
If the Quakes can garner a victory on Wednesday and also this weekend against the MetroStars, then the rest derived from the All-Star break will feel well-earned.
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.