San Jose Earthquakes drop crucial home points in playoff push

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After referee Hilario Grajeda blew his whistle Wednesday night to conclude the San Jose Earthquakes’ scoreless tie with the New England Revolution, an unfamiliar sound rang out in Avaya Stadium:


The fans who make up the sellout crowds at the Earthquakes’ 18-month-old home are starting to get restless as a path to the playoffs seems to be narrowing for San Jose.

Taking a point Wednesday helped the Quakes move into a tie with Portland for sixth place in the Western Conference (the Timbers lead by virtue of having more victories). That did little, however, to assuage an audience unhappy with seeing just one shot on goal against a Revolution squad which came in on a four-game losing streak, with 13 goals allowed in that stretch.

“We definitely share that frustration, because we’re very frustrated in this locker room,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski said. “We expect to do better. We want to do better. And we demand it from each other.”

After winning five of their first six matches at home this year, San Jose are 1-2-4 at Avaya since May 28, with just four goals scored in those games. The Quakes have only four home games left as they try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“These past three home games, to walk away with two points out of them -- to be honest, I think we had the better of all three games,” said Wondolowski, referring to an Aug. 5 draw against New York City FC and a shocking 2-1 loss Friday to Houston. “We should have walked away with a lot more.”

Wondolowski refused to fault his side’s effort Wednesday, and there was plenty of industry from the hosts. But the precision was lacking, as evidenced by the fact that the Quakes didn’t put a shot on target until substitute Henok Goitom took a healthy first-touch cut at a long pass by Darwin Ceren, forcing the only save of the night from Revs goalkeeper Brad Knighton. San Jose’s remaining attempts were either off the mark (five) or blocked (one) by New England’s cobbled-together defense.

“When you have shots, you’ve got to hit them on frame,” Wondolowski said. “I can’t really think of the shots where we really had Brad Knighton make the save. Not even just our shots, but our crosses as well. We need to be a little better picking out a person or picking out a corner, just executing needs to be a lot better.”

It’s not coincidental that the Quakes have hit a lull as Wondolowski’s goal-scoring has dried up. After seven tallies in his first eight games, San Jose’s all-time leading scorer has just two in his last 13 regular-season matches. Wednesday, he got a wide-open head to Simon Dawkins’ cross at 6 yards out but pushed it wide of the near post -- a critical miss in a “not-quite” night.

“I think the break, going away for Copa America didn’t help, being away from us for so long,” said Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear, referring to Wondolowski’s four-game midsummer absence on US national team duty. “He’s still scoring goals in practice. It’s just that teams are keying on him, and sometimes he gets free, sometimes he doesn’t. He got free that one time. I think if you were to have it all over again, he would score.”