If the San Jose Earthquakes want a chance to defend their MLS Cup crown, it's come down to a very simple scenario: They face a must-tie situation in Dallas next Saturday. That was set up following their scoreless draw in San Jose against the Western Conference leading Kansas City Wizards, coupled with a Dallas loss to Los Angeles.
The Earthquakes took the field Saturday night in yet another "must-win" situation against the Wizards, but for the sixth consecutive time, the Quakes failed to win a game.
Neither team played as if they were inspired in the first half. The Earthquakes did manage to outshoot the Wizards, yet chances by Brian Mullan and Todd Dunivant didn't do much to scare Wizards 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi. On the night, Kansas City seemed to content with a tie, bunkering back their defense to halt every Quakes offensive threat.
San Jose seemed to rediscover their pace when the Los Angeles-Dallas score was announced in the 85th minute, but according to Quakes forward Brian Mullan, the announcement didn't make a difference.
"We were playing to win the whole time," Mullan said, "no matter what the outcome of that game."
From the perspective of Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear, his team was unlucky and had the better run of play.
"We deserved something more than a tie," he said. "We pressed the issue for 90 minutes. It was clear that one team was playing for the win.
"If we take that effort to Dallas, we will be alright. We hit goal posts, crossbars, we had near misses. We just couldn't score the goal."
Mullan agreed with Kinnear: "We were creating chances, luck just wasn't with us. If we play like that in Dallas, we'll be in the playoffs."
Two near misses symbolized the Earthquakes fate on the night. One came in the 34th minute when a corner kick hit the near post and Wizards captain Diego Gutierrez, who was in the goalmouth along with Oshoniyi. Earthquakes captain Richard Mulrooney also threatened the K.C. goal in the 81st minute when his blast from 23 yards out hit the underside of the crossbar and nearly bounced down over the goal line.
When asked if he was a Galaxy fan after L.A. knocked off Dallas, Kinnear chuckled. "Well, I said after the game that at least Dallas lost. But I'll never be a Galaxy fan," he said.
Kinnear's team won't play for a tie against the Burn.
"If you play for a draw you are asking for trouble. You just have to play. You can't ask attacking players not to attack," he said. "We're not gonna play for a 0-0 tie."
Both teams were without the services of several key players. San Jose was forced to field a make shift back line of Wes Hart, Ryan Cochrane, Craig Waibel and Todd Dunivant as veterans Jeff Agoos (lower back) and Troy Dayak (yellow card accumulation) sat out the contest.
The Quakes were also missing Canada's Dwayne De Rosario and Pat Onstad away on World Cup qualifying duty along with the USA's Landon Donovan. The Wizards were without U.S. national team members Josh Wolff and Kerry Zavagnin.
"We need to find a better way," Kinnear said of scheduling games on international dates. "All the coaches do suffer from it. It's unfortunate. We've had two of our biggest crowds here and we haven't had our marquee guy."
The Earthquakes had their second consecutive crowd of better than 25,000, as 25,311 fans witnessed the scoreless draw, which boosted the Quakes season attendance average to its highest level since the 1999 season. But for the fourth consecutive game, they failed to find the back of the net at Spartan Stadium.
Tim Sitar is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.