The 2012 San Jose Earthquakes made thrilling comebacks their stock-in-trade, and it won them a Supporters' Shield trophy.
The 2013 model of the Quakes have struggled to muster that same late-game magic, but they're still surrendering plenty of early goals. In fact, they might just have put forward their worst half of the season in Saturday's 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It's confidence, mental approach – just all the things you need, we're not doing it right now,” said head coach Frank Yallop afterwards. “We've got to sort it out.”
RSL jumped all over the Quakes from the opening whistle, securing a three-goal lead before halftime and loping to the finish in a victory which extends San Jose's winless skid to five games in all competitions and pushes them further down the Eastern Conference standings.
“We can't wait to be down constantly, and that's what this season is about right now,” a frustrated Jon Busch told reporters after the game. “And you can't do that. You can't get behind the 8-ball every game and then try to pull yourself out. We've got to be going from the first minute of the game – we weren't and they were. End of story.”
Busch's goal was peppered with eight shots on the evening as San Jose's back line, missing commanding center back Victor Bernardez as he served the first half of a two-game disciplinary suspension, was carved open by RSL's passing and movement.
“You've got to come to a tough place to play,” said Yallop of Rio Tinto Stadium, “but for us to come and lay down in the first half and get taken to – Salt Lake had five chances and scored three goals and that's the end of the game. So they just took their foot off the gas and cruised through the game.”
Fresh off a dispiriting upset loss to the Charleston Battery in third-round US Open Cup play on Tuesday, Yallop tweaked his team's formation for the visit to Utah.
Pairing Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon up top with rookie striker Adam Jahn just behind them as part of a diamond midfield shape, the approach may have been intended to counteract Real's similar shape. But it backfired, as a lost-looking Jahn was substituted along with midfielder Sam Cronin several minutes before the half break in place of Rafael Baca and Steven Lenhart.
But Busch wasn't about to place blame on Xs and Os.
“I don't think it was a tactical thing, I think it was work – getting in on tackles, energy,” said San Jose's veteran netminder. “They just wanted it more in the first half and it showed in every facet. Winning second balls, playing the ball, keeping the ball. We couldn't pass the ball tonight, and they could. We got going in the second half because obviously we had to, and probably they sat back a little, up 3-0.
“It had nothing to do with tactics tonight.”
Yallop's words hinted at a growing sense of frustration and urgency around the Quakes camp.
“It's my job to make sure we get it figured out,” he said. “Right now it's not good.”