SANTA CLARA, Calif. — To San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, there was no reason for ambivalent emotions Wednesday.
The fact that he scored his first two goals since May, and almost added a third for what would have been his first hat trick of the year, had been rendered pretty much irrelevant in the wake of the Quakes’ 2-2 tie to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
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That’s what happens when you twice cough up leads against a last-place expansion team.
“Nothing really mixed, just more frustrated,” Wondolowski said. “I’m just wanting to get that win, no matter what happened.”
What happened instead was the continuation of an unsettling theme for the Quakes. Of San Jose’s last seven ties, three have been scoreless affairs. In the other four, San Jose held the match’s last lead, only to see their defense allow a final, tying goal.
That stretch began with Vancouver’s David Chiumiento salvaging a 1-1 tie with a second-half injury-time goal against San Jose on May 11 in Empire Field. So it was only right, in way, that Chiumiento’s teammate, Eric Hassli, bookended that goal with his own game-knotting tally in the 61st minute.
“We didn’t play scared, but we played tentative, I would say, once we’d go up,” Wondolowski said. “That’s not us, and we’ve got to fix that.”
San Jose arguably should have still taken three points, with Wondolowski hitting the crossbar with a 63rd-minute header and Steven Lenhart unable to score from the top of the penalty box in an 84th solo showdown with Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
The MLS standings, however, only count points based on real-world results, not hypotheticals. And on that count, San Jose are now winless in their last seven matches, dating back to June 11.
“We weren’t good enough for 90 minutes tonight,” Quakes defender Bobby Burling said. “It’s not acceptable to give up a lead like that, let alone twice — especially when we’re dying for a win like we have been. Wondo bailed us out tonight, and we couldn’t get his back.”
Only once this season have the Quakes made a one-goal lead stand up; against New England on May 21, San Jose built a 2-0 advantage through Ellis McLoughlin and Bobby Convey, gave one back in the 86th minute to Chris Tierney, and held on from there.
Since then, there’s been a distinct lack of success at closing the door once in front. And unlike Saturday in Columbus, goalkeeper Jon Busch wasn’t able to ride to the rescue on a tide of highlight-reel saves.
One could argue that Busch should have turned aside Hassli’s well-struck ball from 11 yards in the 42nd minute, but he was certainly blameless on the second score, when former Quake Shea Salinas turned San Jose’s defense inside-out before spoon-feeding Hassli.
“For some reason, we can’t see games out,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “We let the other team come into it with play. They deserved to score first half, I thought. They had come back in the game. They were dangerous.”
As the Quakes’ rapid-fire July draws near to its close, Yallop can start to work during his midweek practices on potential solutions that bring together a harmonious balance of attacking and defending.
“You tend to go in trends,” Yallop said. “All of a sudden, we can’t score, so we’re terrible up front. And then we concede goals; now we’re terrible at the back. It’s a team effort. ... We’ve got to get a combination where we’re solid at the back and dangerous going forward. Right now, we’re struggling to get that chemistry.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes