VANCOUVER, B.C. – It's been a tough start to the season for the San Jose Earthquakes. After an opening-day win over Minnesota United, the Quakes went on a seven-game winless streak, heading into last weekend on the back of three straight defeats.
But the signs are there that San Jose are starting to turn things around under first-year head coach Mikael Stahre, taking four points from a two-game road swing to Minnesota and Vancouver over the past week.
For Stahre, those hard-fought points are more indicative of what his team is about. They just haven't shown it enough yet this year.
"In general I think there's a fine line between winning and losing," Stahre told reporters after San Jose’s 2-2 draw in Vancouver on Wednesday night. "We came out really poor this season for sure.
"I think we deserve better but we need to still improve, but I think now we're on the right track … We’ve got four points out of six, that's good, so let’s win against D.C. [United on Saturday] now."
The Quakes fought back from an early deficit to the Whitecaps to take the lead thanks to goals either side of halftime from Danny Hoesen and Nick Lima. Although Yordy Reyna earned a point for the home side in the end, it was a performance – coupled with the win in Minnesota – that Lima feels will do wonders for the mentality of the group moving forward.
"It shows some resilience from the squad, that when we’re down we can pick ourselves up," the San Jose Homegrown fullback said after the match. "We have to come together as a group from within and keep fighting. Now we go home and have an opportunity to get three points again.
"The morale is high and guys are picking their heads up. When it's low, you can't get too low, and when it's high, you can't be too high. I think we’re learning that and it’s a long season. We had a good week this week. We can claw our way back and win at home his weekend. We’re in a real good spot."
As to what's sparked this sudden turnaround in San Jose's fortunes, Lima feels this lengthy road trip has helped the squad bond as a group, with the results visible on the pitch.
"It's just been the togetherness," Lima said. "We've had two long road trips now in the past couple of weeks. Guys have been able to bond on the road. We're all in this together. It's easy to forget that and be selfish and put your head down, but guys have been picking each other up.
"There's some good veterans in this locker room that have seen this before. This is an organization where there's no room for that and we're responding so far, in a good way."
That's a train of thought echoed by goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
The Quakes’ goalkeeper produced seven saves to keep the Whitecaps at bay on Wednesday, and feels San Jose's recent successes owe a lot to "staying true to what we believe in as a team."
Tarbell doesn't feel the Quakes have done anything particularly different these past two matches, they've just focused on the gameplan and it was just a matter of time before things came together for the team.
"This is a very tight locker room," Tarbell told MLSsoccer.com. "Everyone gets along. We've got a good spirit going. Everyone works hard for each other. We've just got to keep believing in the process that we have and our work ethic every day. Keep doing that and the results will follow."