SAN JOSE, Calif. — From an outside-looking-in perspective, the San Jose Earthquakes’ playoff chances took the biggest hit yet when a 90th minute winning-goal from Seattle's Jordan Morris stunned a sold-out Avaya Stadium on Sunday, sending the Quakes to a 1-0 loss, their fifth straight.
The two most recent losses came at home, putting the Quakes' postseason hopes in peril. Their fate will come down to a single match in Portland on Decision Day presented by AT&T.
In an extensive post-game press conference shortly after the game, head coach Matias Almeyda, who returned from suspension along with Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza, took his time to make the case that it’s not the time for alarm.
“No, because most [of the other teams] haven’t been winning either,” Almeyda said in front of packed media room. “If not, they would have pulled ahead. It looks like [irregularity] is natural in this league.”
“Now a year in, I’m experiencing it first hand,” he added. “More teams are falling off as we get closer to the end — whether it be for fitness, for nervousness, for risks taken. It’s equal, and in our conference, four teams have a chance.”
The Quakes have been irregular; in fact, their season trend chart could easily be mistaken for the highs and lows of a rollercoaster: a four-game losing streak to start the year, multiple undefeated runs and now a stretch of five straight losses. But the latest streak is not a product of a lack of intensity or a failure to follow orders, according to forward Magnus Eriksson.
“It’s [about the] small details in soccer,” Eriksson admitted postgame. “We’re doing exactly what we did in July, as well. I mean, if we get the first goal after five minutes, that changes everything. So, I mean, it’s small details. We have a big belief in what we’re doing. It’s really nice to have it in our hands, and we’re looking forward to next weekend.”
Those small details were apparent against the Sounders. In two instances, San Jose struck the post — one from a long-range effort from Guram Kashia and the other from a Danny Hoesen free kick. In the 56th minute, Tommy Thompson's backward step into Xavier Arreaga yielded a straight red card from referee Ismail Elfath.
Those types of sequences — coupled with a last-minute goal — are a gut punch for any team. The Quakes say that doesn't apply to them.
There’s a “final” to be played in Portland next Sunday (4 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes), and Almeyda’s men, through all the ups and downs, are more committed than ever to come out with a playoff berth in hand.
“I think the coach handles it well,” Danny Hoesen told reporters. “He said he was proud of what we showed effort-wise, and I think that even with 10 men we still kept the ball and kept attacking — that is really positive.”
“I’m not afraid that anyone is going to drop their head down because it’s a big chance, it’s a final,” he added. “It’s going to be very exciting.”