For the second consecutive week, the San Jose Earthquakes let a lead slip away in the second half, settling for a 3-3 tie against Chivas USA on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. But this week, they can no longer point to it as a one-off event.
"How does the saying go -- fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me?" said San Jose goalkeeper Pat Onstad. "Obviously it's a pattern that's coming out and we've got to stop it. If this continues, it will be a very long season."
Last week against New England, the Earthquakes raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first half, only to settle for a 2-2 tie on second-half goals by Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman. This time, San Jose led 3-2 after a 79th-minute goal by Brian Ching before conceding the tying goal in the first minute of stoppage time.
"Coming into the season, we wanted to improve on our home record from last season," said San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear. "A 2-0 lead at halftime and a 3-2 lead with five minutes to go or whatever it was, it's something that we should be able to close."
One of San Jose's hallmarks in recent seasons has been its ability to close out games; however, the new-look Earthquakes have been unable to secure the three points in either of their two season-opening home matches. But despite the appearance of several new starters, Onstad doesn't look to unfamiliarity among his teammates as an excuse.
"We had 13 games in preseason, so this is our 15th game together," said Onstad. "I wouldn't say it's been that the team doesn't know one another. It's just a team that has to find a way to win in this league."
Chivas USA posed unique problems for the Earthquakes all afternoon with its attack-minded 4-3-3 formation, putting extra pressure on outside backs Wade Barrett and Craig Waibel. Unable to support the midfield in the attack, San Jose often found itself unable to hold the ball for long stretches, making the task of holding the lead that much more difficult.
"We knew that with them playing three up front that the outside backs weren't going to get much play today," said Barrett, San Jose's left back. "We kind of thought our outside midfielders would get a lot of space."
But Barrett does not attribute Chivas USA's unique style to the late-game collapse, instead pointing to a much more fundamental lapse of execution.
"It was a total breakdown on our part," said Barrett. "At the end of the game, there are a couple of simple things you do to close the game out -- one is sitting on the ball in the corner and number two, we need to get everybody behind the ball and defend. Those are simple things that we just didn't do today."
Danny Kadah is a contributor to MSLnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.