SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Say this for San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop: He left no bullets in his gun, metaphorically speaking, Saturday night against Seattle Sounders FC.
Unfortunately, it was loaded with blanks.
WATCH: Match Highlights
No matter whom Yallop tried in the Sounders’ 1-0 victory, the Quakes posed little danger to Seattle keeper Kasey Keller, despite playing at home and coming off a four-match unbeaten string since the World Cup break.
Seattle made a 26th-minute goal from Fredy Montero stand up for the victory, with San Jose generating just two shots on goal, and only one after Montero's goal. Scott Sealy's 32nd-minute try, which caromed off the right post, was the closest they came to scoring.
“It was a massive game for us, and we just lay down and died, to be honest,” said Yallop, who described this as San Jose’s worst loss of the season, even more dispiriting than the 3-0 shellacking they absorbed in their season opener against Real Salt Lake.
“Especially in the first half, it didn’t look like we had any cohesion at all. It’s just disappointing because we worked hard during the week and talked about what we wanted to do with the ball and all the things that go into playing well, and we didn’t do it.”
Sealy started in place of Chris Wondolowski alongside Cornell Glen. Ryan Johnson came on at the half, as did Arturo Alvarez, with holding midfielder Brandon McDonald sacrificed in the process. With 16 minutes to go, Wondolowski entered the game for right back Jason Hernandez, Yallop switching to a 3-5-2 in a desperate hunt for an equalizer that never materialized.
Yet even with all the moves, the ever-present fissure between San Jose’s midfield and forward lines only became more clearly delineated as the evening wore on.
“We just didn’t move the ball quickly,” Yallop said. “We were reacting to everything, rather than anticipating. There’s a big difference. You have to anticipate and be on the move and read plays, rather than wait and then react wherever the ball goes. It’s too late [then]. We were very static and on our heels most of the game.”
The Quakes have struggled to some extent all season at building up pressure without a classic offensive distributor on the roster, and the problem has been exacerbated since their best approximation, Brazilian veteran Andre Luiz, had to undergo knee surgery last month. Saturday, Yallop gave Sam Cronin his fifth start as an attacking center midfielder, then moved Joey Gjertsen from the right wing to that spot for the second half.
“The gap was pretty big between our midfield and our forwards,” Johnson said. “A lot of times when I got the ball, it was like nobody was around me. We’ve got to relearn how to build the ball a little bit better.”
During San Jose's four-game run, they had gotten by offensively with a diet of mostly counterattacks and set pieces. Those avenues didn't bear fruit Saturday, although Sealy's near goal came off an Ike Opara flick header from a long throw-in from McDonald.
San Jose were hoping to get Eduardo back by now to provide a target man up front for other attackers to play off. But with the oft-injured Brazilian on the shelf for a month or more, Yallop will either have to get more out of the collection of players he has, or hope general manager John Doyle will come through with some cavalry units.
“We can either look at other players to play in there or work on the guys we have,” Yallop said. “The little in between spaces, we are not using them well, and we’re not using the ball well once we are in there. You can play a different system, you can do whatever you want to do, but in the end our players have got to accept the responsibility when they have the ball. I’m not singling anybody out, because everybody was in the same boat.
“Tonight, we just didn’t look that we were playing with confidence. We didn’t deserve to win the game at all, and I think that was the alarming, disappointing part for me.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes