Over the course of 13 winless matches, one pattern has become evident for the San Jose Earthquakes: Every time they make a wisp of a mistake, they are getting ruthlessly punished for it.
So it was for the Quakes on Saturday night in their 1-1 tie against Toronto FC. San Jose dominated possession for much of the evening at BMO Field, but a momentary defensive opening led to a golden scoring opportunity for TFC's Eric Avila, who made the Quakes pay with a 33rd-minute goal that put Toronto ahead.
San Jose's Chris Wondolowski equalized in the 87th minute to pull out a point and keep the Quakes’ playoff hopes from absolutely flat-lining. But the match was defined for much of the night by Toronto’s early goal, which came about after Earthquakes captain Ramiro Corrales, playing in central midfield, made a sliding tackle on Reds winger Peri Marosevic — only to see the ball ricochet off his shins right to the feet of Avila, who cut a shot low to the far post to beat San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“Maybe I’ve stepped on the black cat, or however the saying goes, but we don’t seem to get any kind of [good] fortune in games,” Quakes manager Frank Yallop said. “The last few games, we’ve played well, but we keep tying.”
In this instance, San Jose was victimized by having Corrales and Justin Morrow — making a second consecutive start at left back — each decide independently to collapse on Marosevic at the same exact moment. Morrow, who had been standing up Marosevic outside the Quakes’ penalty box, shifted his weight forward to attack the ball-handler just as Corrales launched into his slide.
That change in direction gave Avila the opportunity to loop around Morrow into open space on the right wing when the ball trickled that way. Avila needed just one touch before launching his goal-scoring drive, giving San Jose’s defenders no chance to react.
“We can’t buy a bounce right now, but we’re never going to give up,” Wondolowski said. “We’re going to fight and scrap and try to get every point we can. It’s something we know we’re going to stick together for.”
The Quakes were thrown a lifeline at the end by Wondolowski, who tallied his team-high ninth goal of the year and first since a July 20 brace against Vancouver. In the end, however, it was another tie for a team that has now seen half its season to this point — 13 out of 26 matches — slide by without a victory.
“I’ve been on teams where, in the run of the season, we have this bad-luck run," Yallop said, "but this is the longest I’ve gone without winning, for sure. What I liked about the performance tonight was that our guys were fantastically buoyant and mentally strong. I think we’ve shown character.
“It’s a weird feeling, because I think in a lot of the games this year that we’ve tied, we have played well enough to win. That’s the thing we can really focus on.”