SANTA CLARA, Calif. - For the San Jose Earthquakes, winless in a franchise-record 11 consecutive matches, it was another loss marred by controversy.
Saturday night's 2-1 home defeat to the Colorado Rapids turned on two key decisions by referee Paul Ward. First there was a first-half penalty kick decision that allowed Colorado’s Caleb Folan to equalize from the spot. That was followed by midfielder Sam Cronin’s ejection following a challenge on Colorado captain Pablo Mastroeni, which left the Earthquakes to play 10-on-11 for the final 40 minutes of the match.
The Rapids would score their go-ahead goal 22 minutes after Cronin was shown the gate, digging the hole San Jose (5-9-10) faces to reach the playoffs just that much deeper.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“It’s ridiculous,” Yallop said. “We’re just getting screwed all the time. I’m not happy about it. It ruined the [expletive] game ... I’m sick of standing here, trying to explain it, when it’s out of my hands what’s going on. We did well enough to win the game. The referee decided differently, and here we are. I’m trying to explain a loss which shouldn’t be.”
The Quakes felt victimized three weeks ago at Real Salt Lake when the hosts’ Alvaro Saborío appeared to take a dive after having little to no contact with San Jose defender Bobby Burling and was rewarded for it; Saborio scored on the ensuing penalty kick, Burling was ejected and RSL rolled to a 4-0 win.
San Jose’s position on that play was vindicated when Saborío later received a one-game suspension from the league for putting the game in disrepute.
While Cronin’s collision with Mastroeni wasn’t a clear-cut case of simulation, the Quakes were nevertheless left to fume about Ward’s influence on the outcome, which kept San Jose stuck on 25 points. The Quakes remained just five points off the last playoff spot, but lost ground on Saturday to D.C. United and Chivas USA.
“It’s just very disappointing,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “That’s all I can say anymore. We, as players, this is how we put food on our table for our families. This is how we pay our bills. And again, tonight the game was changed by somebody other than the players.
“How many times can you say it: Let the players dictate the game. If Colorado wins, Colorado wins. But it’s very frustrating when I see the boys in front of me, and what they put into the game tonight, and how well we played, even with 10 men, that we come out 2-1 and lose ... It’s the same old story. It’s getting old.”
Adding to the frustration were not only the continuing winless streak, but also the fact that San Jose could have pulled out a point even after Cronin saw red. Chris Wondolowski was put free inside the six-yard box in the 56th minute by Joey Gjertsen, but popped his shot over the crossbar.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Wondolowski said. “It’s a shame. That one will hurt. [The penalty kick] kind of turned it also. I thought we played one of our best halves all year, keeping the ball. They hit the post real early [off Folan’s seventh-minute header], but other than that, I think that was literally their only chance. And it wasn’t even a chance until it became a PK.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes