SANTA CLARA, Calif. – That the San Jose Earthquakes lost again, in a home game, has become a bit commonplace.
What makes the Quakes’ 2-1 defeat to D.C. United on Friday so disconcerting, then, is that it came with San Jose at practically full strength for the first time in weeks. Yannick Djalo and Chris Wondolowski started together for only the second time all season. Center backs Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson were reunited for the first time since May 10. Outside of full availability for winger Shea Salinas – who came on as a 67th-minute substitute in his return from an abdominal strain – coach Mark Watson could have no complaints about absences.
And still, it wasn’t enough to keep San Jose from dropping their fourth consecutive match, and third straight either in Stanford Stadium or Buck Shaw Stadium.
“It’s disappointing to lose anytime, especially at home,” Watson said. “We, for once, got healthy and had good availability. [It was] maybe a little more disappointing, yeah. To put yourself in a two-goal hole is difficult.”
The Quakes found themselves down 2-0 midway through the first half, with a couple of momentary lapses to blame for the deficit. San Jose right back Brandon Barklage – who came of age in MLS with D.C. United – was whistled for a handball in the 12th minute, setting up Eddie Johnson’s penalty-kick goal.
“It was just one of those fluke things where it hits you and your arm is up high enough to where the ref’s going to call it,” Barklage told MLSsoccer.com.
D.C. United pounced again in the 25th after some apparent miscommunication between Barklage and goalkeeper Jon Busch led to a wild clearance that eventually begat Chris Rolfe’s low cross from the left wing. Luis Silva got just enough of a touch to redirect the ball in the far post.
“Things haven’t been going to way that we’ve wanted them to go for the past five weeks,” said Barklage, who was removed at the half in favor of Shaun Francis. “I was mentally very invested in that game. That’s against a former team that I always get up for and try to take it to them. It just wasn’t clicking for us tonight.”
San Jose outshot D.C. United 10-1 in the second half, but to Busch, that simply highlighted the Quakes’ problems.
“If we played that way for 90 minutes, I think it’s a different game,” Busch said. “That’s what’s frustrating – we can do that in 45 minutes, but we can’t seem to put it all together in 90 minutes.”
The loss takes away one more piece of potential solace for the Quakes, whose members had pointed out coming into the game that they were actually one point ahead of last year’s pace – and they eventually finished that season tied for fifth place in the Western Conference, missing out on a playoff berth only by virtue of losing a tiebreaker. Now, San Jose has only 16 points in 16 matches, and they’re two points behind the 2013 standard – and they’re guaranteed to remain in last place for at least a couple of weeks longer.
“We can’t worry about the total amount of points we have to get,” Busch said. “We have to just take it one game at a time right now and start trying to pick up points. You can’t look at the big picture. You’ve got to look at the next game only. And that’s it. . . .
“Whether it’s pretty, ugly, whatever. It’s time to step up and take care of business. We get paid to win games, and right now we’re not winning games, period.”