SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps FC met last month at Buck Shaw Stadium, the visitors felt pretty good when Sébastien Le Toux put them up 1-0 in the 49th minute.
But instead of a road point or three, Le Toux’s strike unleashed a Quakes comeback that’s lasted for nearly a month. And now Vancouver – who saw San Jose smash their league-record, 428-minute, season-opening scoreless streak with three goals in 11 minutes – get a second crack at the league-leading Quakes on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Beginning with that Whitecaps match on April 7, San Jose have gone 4-0-1. In three of those games, including the Quakes’ 5-3 victory over D.C. United on Wednesday, the opposition scored first but couldn’t hold on.
In the other two matches, San Jose took the early lead, then coughed up tying goals but responded with stoppage-time game-winners.
“Even though sometimes we might go down in the score, we know that if we play the style we’ve been playing so far – which is keeping the ball, going down the lines, dictating the tempo – I think that’s key to winning the games,” Quakes midfielder Rafael Baca said. “We’re getting really accurate at doing that, and it has shown in the [outcomes].”
Like a good horror movie villain, the Quakes simply refuse to die – even when someone like reigning MVP Dwayne De Rosario sticks a dagger of goal into them, whaling away from 28 yards and finding the upper corner.
“I wasn’t that worried, to be honest,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said of going down 1-0 after just eight minutes. “I think I mentioned to Mark [Watson, assistant coach], ‘We’ll get back in the game.' I just felt we moved the ball so much better and we created chances.”
Overall, San Jose are a league-best 2-1-1 when allowing the first goal, compared to last season’s mark of 1-8-6. It’s something of a chicken-or-egg debate as to whether the Quakes’ rolling offense – San Jose lead with 20 total goals, and are just 0.03 goals per game behind New York – is fueling the confidence to come back, or if the defense – whose GAA is still just 1.00 despite D.C.’s outburst – gives Yallop’s attackers freedom to roam.
“That’s the thing with this team, I feel like with us going down, we never feel like we’re out of a game,” said Quakes defender Justin Morrow, who scored his first career MLS goal Wednesday. “We always feel like we can score goals and get ourselves back in. We never really panic. And then on the other side, when we’re up, we’re pretty disciplined to see the game out.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.