In ordinary circumstances, a 1-1 tie at CenturyLink Field against the Seattle Sounders – who have been MLS’ most successful team this season at harvesting points from home games – would have been an impressive result for any opponent.
For the San Jose Earthquakes, though, it represented a job only half done.
Good as it was to get a point out of Wednesday’s match – especially considering that the Quakes were coming off a franchise-record 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Dallas last weekend – San Jose (6-9-7) have reached a critical juncture in their pursuit of a postseason berth.
If fifth-place Vancouver (7-4-12) continues at their current rate, they would finish on 49 points. In that case, San Jose would need 24 points from their final 12 games to match the Whitecaps – an average of exactly two points per match.
That’s why team captain Chris Wondolowski wasn’t quite exultant after scoring a game-tying goal in the 65th minute.
“Last game [vs. FC Dallas] was embarrassing, to be honest, so it was good to come in here and have a solid performance,” Wondolowski said after in Seattle. “We will take the point, but we really need to get on a run of getting three points every time out if we want to make a playoff push.”
To that end, perhaps the best sign out of Seattle was the fact that it represented a return to form by San Jose’s back eight. The Sounders may have held 58.1 percent of possession and launched 24 shots, but 12 of those were blocked, as San Jose’s defense rediscovered some of the stoutness that had been stripped away by Dallas’ whirlwind attack.
“We knew we would be under pressure at times here, and we were,” Quakes coach Mark Watson said. “It was just collective effort and desire, commitment to keep your shape and continue to do the running and close the spaces down, get some part of your body on the shot. It was a real committed effort from everyone.”
Six of those blocks came from Jason Hernandez, who could be called upon again to provide such an effort when the Quakes finish up their two-game road trip in Philadelphia on Sunday (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes). Hernandez, who missed much of the first half of the season with a strained left quadriceps, has helped San Jose cushion the blow of losing US international Clarence Goodson, who remains out with an injury to his big left toe.
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Hernandez’s fellow backline members are still a little unsettled. World Cup veteran Victor Bernardez left the Seattle match on 80 minutes after a heavy takedown by Seattle forward Obafemi Martins, and the Honduran is listed as questionable against the Union with a sprained left ankle. Right back Shaun Francis, who didn’t start against the Sounders after taking a knee to the thigh against Dallas, played the final 10 minutes in place of Bernardez and could return to the lineup.
Whatever happens in the back, San Jose will have to roll with what they have on hand offensively; midfielder Yannick Djalo, out with another right quadriceps strain, did not join the team in Philadelphia and will miss a fourth consecutive match.
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.