Shrader: Quakes are fighting mad

the fans had just seen their fifth tie in nine home games, the Revolution players blew a 2-0 lead in second-half stoppage time and the Quakes had played only about 25 minutes of effective and entertaining soccer. The game turned only after Troy Dayak picked up a red card in the 62nd minute.

"We played better with 10 men than we did with 11," said captain Jeff Agoos. "And that's a problem."

With Landon Donovan and Brian Ching scoring after the 90-minute mark, the Quakes managed to get a point, forging a 2-2 tie with the worst team in the league and a team that hasn't beaten the Quakes in more than four years. But the Quakes didn't manage to stay out of last place in the Western Conference, which doesn't sit well with the defending champions.

"I'm not happy at all," says defender Craig Waibel. "Open the paper, tell me what you see. I don't see excuses, I don't see guys patting each other on the back. I hope everyone has a tear in their eye when they see us in last place. It stinks."

(And there is a matter of all those ties. 35 percent of all MLS games this season have ended in a draw. By comparison, 28 percent of the English Premier League games ended in ties in 2003-04. It is simply a part of the game. Or shall we reintroduce the shootout? I think not.)

It is of little consolation to suggest that with their 21 points the Quakes would be tied for second place in the Eastern Conference, and that they are but two points out of third place. This is a team that knows it has not played anywhere near its ability, nor its expectations.

"Are we a good team?" asks Agoos. "Yes. Have we played well? No. We're the last place in the West and if we think we're any better, we're fooling ourselves."

For more than an hour Saturday night, the Quakes struggled and could not find any rhythm and they found themselves down 2-0. After the red card, they played with some urgency, putting together some passes and assaulting the Revs' net. Finally, they were rewarded with a couple of goals.

A thrilling finish to be sure, but this E-ticket ride of a season is getting to be a bit much for the players.

"We can't put together 90 minutes, except for one game, last week against Colorado," said Landon Donovan. "We still have time, but we've been saying that for a while now."

"I think guys are still admiring their rings from last year," Waibel said. "It's time to realize it says 2003, not 2004 (on those rings). We need to quit thinking we're champions. We're not. We are in fifth place. It's time to wake up. Everyone makes excuses every game."

Six of the Quakes' 13 remaining games are at Spartan Stadium, enough opportunities to please the paying customers, and the players.

"We have plenty of time and plenty of talent," said Waibel. "But not if guys are still convinced we're the best team, because we aren't."

"If this doesn't get better," Agoos said, "we're going to be making some golf dates in October."

It has been four years since this team has played a lot of golf in October. No reason to get the clubs out now, the campers need to be made happy first.

John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.

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