SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski said he hasn’t been on a team like this since the championship-winning seasons of the Houston Dynamo. Rafael Baca referenced the West Coast Conference-winning Loyola Marymount squad from his senior year. Justin Morrow hearkened back to his days winning Ohio state titles with Saint Ignatius High in Cleveland.
Suffice to say, it’s been a long time since most any of the Earthquakes have been on a team that’s playing as well as San Jose are right now.
After blitzing D.C. United 5-3 on Wednesday, the Quakes are on a 6-0-1 run and have tied the longest unbeaten streak in MLS this year. At 7-1-1 overall, they’re continuing what already rates as the franchise’s best-ever start to a season.
HIGHLIGHTS: San Jose 5, D.C. United 3
And one last fact: With 22 points, San Jose not only rule the roost in the Western Conference, but they've also unseated idle Sporting Kansas City from the league-wide No. 1 spot.
“That team in the locker room right now is relishing each game they play,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told reporters after the victory. “They’re not worried about it. They’re looking forward to it.”
Said Morrow: “It’s just fun. This is probably one of the most fun teams I’ve played on. Every game, I walk off the field with a smile on my face.”
San Jose went 7-0-1 from Aug. 20 to Oct. 1 during the 2005 season, when the Quakes won their first and only Supporters’ Shield. But that team was the culmination of a glory-filled era for San Jose, following MLS Cup titles in 2001 and ’03, and featured the likes of Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Ching and all-time franchise leading scorer Ronald Cerritos.
Certainly, this unit represents the highest altitude the Quakes have achieved since the club was refounded as an expansion team in 2008.
“We’re clicking right now,” team captain Ramiro Corrales told MLSsoccer.com. “Everything’s going our way. Everyone’s working really hard, and we’re hungry. You can see it in everyone.”
Wednesday, the Quakes’ contributions came from all over the field. Sure, there were braces from Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, but it went deeper than that – from Steven Beitashour conjuring up his team-high fifth assist to Simon Dawkins spoon-feeding Wondolowski a tailor-made scoring opportunity to Morrow sneaking unmarked into D.C.’s box on a corner kick and ramming home a shot from 12 yards for his first career MLS goal.
“I’m a pretty harsh critic of myself and I think that I’ve left some [goals] out there,” said Wondolowski, who moved past New York’s Thierry Henry and took back the league’s scoring lead at 10 goals. “So it reflects on the team, how well they’ve been playing. Look at Beitashour’s cross. Look at Simon Dawkins’ pass. He put it on a platter there for me. Those two assists are the real things to talk about. Those are pretty special.”
Yallop acknowledged that D.C. United were hurt by the absences of center backs Emiliano Dudar and Dejan Jakovic, which forced the visitors to use a makeshift backline that had right back Robbie Russell in the middle and defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen at right back.
But to Yallop, the Quakes are playing in such a zone right now that it might not have mattered who was on the other side of the ball.
“The way we moved the ball and were dynamic around the goal, finished our chances, created our chances and were running off the ball – all the things that I really want us to do well, we did great tonight,” Yallop said. “We conceded three goals, but we won by two. That’s always good.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.