SAN JOSE, Calif. - Generally speaking, the last thing a team on a roll wants to do is stop playing, but for the San Jose Earthquakes, the MLS All-Star break could not have come at a better time.
Fresh off a 2-1 victory against the MetroStars on Saturday night that thrust the Earthquakes into a tie with Dallas for the MLS Western Conference lead, the team is looking forward to the week off for the break.
"We've certainly been playing well of late, but we're coming off a four-game road trip," said San Jose defender Danny Califf. "The last few games have been extremely hot and have taken a lot out of us, so the break comes at a good time. It's a good mental break as well."
After suffering a dreadful 3-0 loss to D.C. United on the third leg of a four-city road trip on July 15, the Quakes bounced back with a pair of impressive 2-1 victories. Since losing 1-0 at Kansas City on May 28, San Jose has been the hottest team in the league, with just one loss in its past 10 matches and six wins in that time.
"In that game, there were a lot of things against us," said midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. "We were tired, it was very humid, the field was wet - so we knew it was one of those games. You're bound to get a good beating sometime - it's about how you react to it. And we reacted well."
Perhaps the best indicator of San Jose's penchant for responding well to adversity came in the team's response to the end of its franchise-record 537-minute home shutout streak. The streak ended a somewhat ignominious fashion, as a cross off the foot of Ryan Suarez ricocheted off Ricardo Clark and into Pat Onstad's net for an own goal.
However, true to their character, the Earthquakes came back to tie the score at 1-1 just 57 seconds later when De Rosario found Mark Chung at the back post for an easy header finish.
"That shows the character of the guys we have on this team," said De Rosario. "We never put our head down, no matter what the circumstances."
De Rosario then provided the finishing touches, tallying the winning goal in the 53rd minute off a feed from Mark Chung. The pass was a little behind De Rosario, but he was able to collect it in stride and fight off MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven on the way to sliding the ball past goalkeeper Tony Meola into the lower left corner of the net.
"It was good enough for me to score," joked De Rosario about the pass. "I saw the whole field in front of me, and when I was going down, I saw Tony Meola pull to one side. I saw the other side open, so I just put it there."
Of course, none of the Earthquakes has to worry about actually playing in the All-Star Game, as the entire team was snubbed in the voting. As strange as it may sound, the club looks at the snub as sort of a badge of honor.
"The All-Star game is a popularity contest for the most part - we're kind of happy with the league not looking at us now," said Califf, who merited All-Star consideration with his play in the first half of the season. "They're concentrating on other teams and other things, but we're going to be the team that's there in the end."
Now, San Jose is in a position where it can relish its position in the standings without fear of an instant letdown.
"In this league, hard work goes a long way," said San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear. "And when you combine hard work with good players, you have the makings of a good team. That's what we have here."
Danny Kadah is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.