SAN JOSE, Calif. – With three draws and two losses in their last five matches, the San Jose Earthquakes are on their longest winless streak since a franchise-record 13-game string that torpedoed their 2011 season.
But it’s the way in which those results have come that’s left the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners shaking their heads at their 2-3-4 record.
“I’ve never been more frustrated on the sidelines for a long, long time,” head coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com after San Jose’s 2-2 draw with Chivas USA this past Saturday. “Dominating the whole game and not getting the three points was very difficult and frustrating to watch.”
Maybe the Quakes are simply paying off a karmic debt from last season’s 19-6-9 campaign. Vancouver snared an equalizer on April 6 when a deflected shot ran to Corey Hertzog, who fired it home to cash in on an 11-on-9 “power play.” Two weeks later, Portland took a point out of Buck Shaw Stadium thanks in part to a shot that was well-blocked by Quakes right back Steven Beitashour – but landed in the perfect spot for Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri to slam past goalkeeper Jon Busch.
Last weekend, the weirdness continued. Chivas USA came out down 1-0 at intermission but scored in the 47th when Busch’s punch of a Jorge Villafaña cross ricocheted off Rojiblancos defender Mario de Luna and into the net. In the 51st minute, another Villafaña cross slipped between Beitashour’s legs to find Tristan Bowen, whose shot also went between the wickets of a Quakes defender – in this case, Justin Morrow – to give Chivas a 2-1 lead.
“Defensively, we’re playing well,” Busch told MLSsoccer.com before training Tuesday. “It’s just one or two little breaks that aren’t going our way. You could say maybe last year, all the breaks went our way, and this year, it’s that little issue.”
It would be funny if the goals weren’t so deleterious to the Quakes’ point total. Heading into a Saturday afternoon tilt with Montreal, San Jose lay seventh among Western Conference teams in terms of points per match, with an average of 1.11. Their minus-three goal differential is worst in the West.
“Vancouver, Portland and even Chivas … it’s a handful of chances and they’ve scored three goals,” Yallop told reporters Tuesday. “It’s the other teams taking their chances when they’ve come along and us not being as sharp as we should be [offensively]. ... We’ve tied two where we should’ve won the two home games. Vancouver and Portland, I think we deserved to win both games.”
It’s easy to fault the defense when a one-goal lead disappears in the second half, but the Quakes are built to win games 3-2 more easily than 1-0. Yallop said his attack must shoulder some of the responsibility for the missed points as well, referencing San Jose’s 21-7 advantage in shots against Chivas.
More importantly, to Yallop’s mind, is making sure the Quakes don’t lose confidence.
“We’re not far off,” Yallop said. “We’re not playing badly. There’s no one individual you look at and go, ‘Well, he’s not really playing well.’ … We played very well in our last game without getting three points. You don’t all of a sudden go, ‘Guys, we’ve got to start ripping it up.’”