There is a clichéd line that goes something like this: "Stats are for losers." Please allow me to turn that phrase on its ear and suggest to you – using the numbers – why the San Jose Earthquakes are a major contender for the championship of Major League Soccer in 2005.
Twenty-seven goals allowed in 28 games. Not only are they keeping their opponents just under a goal a game, they're keeping their opponents' chances to a minimum. This stat is even more impressive when you consider that the club gave up 11 goals in its first five games, which means after those first five games, they have allowed 16 goals in the next 23.
Be good both at home and on the road. San Jose is the only unbeaten team at home (9-0-5) and has the best road winning percentage and the most wins on the road
(7-4-3). Winning at home is a must for survival; winning on the road is a must for title consideration.
Beat the teams in your conference. To assure home-field advantage in the conference final, a team must finish first in the conference, which means beating the conference opponents. The Quakes are 10-1-6 vs. the West; the one loss coming to the Galaxy in Los Angeles. (San Jose and L.A. meet in the final regular season game of the year, October 15 at The Home Depot Center.)
Win after falling behind. The Quakes are the only team in the league to have won four times after giving up the first goal. They are 4-4-2 when the opponent scores first. As a matter of reference, New England has the second best mark, 3-6-3. The Galaxy are 0-11-1 when the other guys get on the board first.
Spread the wealth. The Quakes have no goal scorer with more than eight – Alejandro Moreno leads the team – though their top five scorers have combined for 30 of the team's 45 goals. Ronald Cerritos and Dwayne De Rosario (who leads the league with 12 assists) have six goals apiece. Brian Ching (in only 13 games and about 720 minutes played) and Mark Chung have five goals each. In all, 13 players have at least one goal for the club. Dwayne De Rosario is the only player on this team this year to have a multi-goal game and that came in the 28th game, a 2-0 win Wednesday night over the Chicago Fire.
Finish off your opponent. No team in MLS has been better in the last 30 minutes of game than the Quakes. They've allowed an aggregate nine goals in the final half-hour. No other team has fewer than 10 goals allowed in this category.
Get on a roll and stay on it. It is almost inconceivable that a club would lose one game in a stretch of nearly four months. The Quakes are 13-1-4 in their last 18 games. Their only loss since May 28th was a humbling, 3-0 defeat in D.C. on July 15, probably the only real stinker the Quakes have played all year long.
Win close games. The downfall of the 2004 club has been reversed in a big way. The Quakes were 2-9 in one-goal games last season; this year they are a league-best 11-3 in this category.
Be competitive every night. Of the 28 games played, 21 were decided by one goal or less. The game-winner in the three-goal losses – to Chicago, Kansas City and Los Angeles – came late in all those game. D.C. United's 3-0 win over the Quakes is one of only two games this year when the Quakes have allowed as many as three goals (the other, a 3-3 tie in week two at home to Chivas USA).
The evidence is pretty clear. You do a few of these things well, and you'll be in the hunt. You do all of these things well and you should have the best record in the league.
The Quakes do all these things well, and they do have the best record in the league. It appears some stats are for winners. Or maybe, some stats make winners.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.