SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The note, scrawled in blue ink on the whiteboard in the San Jose Earthquakes’ home locker room, said it all:
“Players Only – Monday 9 a.m.”
That’s when the Quakes -- without any coaches or other mediators -- will reconvene in an attempt to figure out what’s gone wrong with last year’s conference finalists in the wake of a 2-1 home defeat Saturday to previously winless Chivas USA.
WATCH: Full match highlights
Having dropped down to at least eighth in the Western Conference standings, there will be plenty of grist for the mill for the San Jose players to talk about. Chivas’ comeback win, cemented by an 85th-minute goal from Mariano Trujillo, marked a second consecutive disjointed display for the Quakes, whose trademark grit — which took them to a 13-10-7 record and a record 13 shutouts last year — was conspicuously and wholly absent.
“When the whistle’s blown for a game that matters, you’ve got to make sure that you’re 100 percent committed to doing what you need to do for the team,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “And I think that we weren’t together today as a unit. I thought Chivas were way better than us, deserved to win the game. That was a really, really poor performance by us.
“Collectively and individually, I thought it was terrible.”
San Jose took their first lead at home on the strength of a nicely lofted header from an acute angle by Chris Wondolowski in the 16th minute. But even with that advantage, Yallop could see storm clouds brewing above Buck Shaw Stadium.
After Alejandro Moreno’s first-half injury-time equalizer, Yallop delivered his most blistering tirade of this —and maybe any — season at halftime in a bid to motivate his club.
[inline_node:334698]It didn’t move the needle when it came to a result, however. Outside of a potential penalty that went uncalled when Scott Sealy was hauled down in the 52nd minute, the Quakes never looked as though they would find a tying goal against Chivas 'keeper Dan Kennedy, who has not lost a game in four starts.
“Even from the opening whistle, I didn’t see any real commitment and fight from anybody,” Yallop said. “I went nuts at halftime because one thing I will ask for is fight and endeavor and scrap. It was nothing. Nothing. And it was nothing all day.”
Chivas took advantage offensively, firing 17 shots and putting six of those on net. If not for Jon Busch’s sprawling saves on Moreno (38th minute), Nick LaBrocca (29th minute) and Marcos Mondaini (58th minute), the outcome would have been far more stark and unappealing to Quakes fans.
After carding a shutout in 43.3 percent of their league matches last year, the Quakes have just one in six games thus far. Never has the form of 2010 seemed so far away.
“I think we look a bit disconnected on who’s supposed to step and be the aggressor on each play,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “We’re conceding wave after wave of attack. And eventually a goal’s going to be scored. I feel sometimes we’re just playing a defensive drill out there, like a track meet going back and forth.”
You could argue the Quakes were unlucky to concede the game-winner, with the rebound from Busch’s initial save falling right to the feet of Trujillo. But that would unfairly downplay the work Justin Braun did, beating both Ramiro Corrales and Brandon McDonald down the right wing to set up the scoring chance.
As Wondolowski noted, “you make your own luck.” And the Quakes aren’t working hard enough to generate much in the way of good karma.
“For whatever reason, we’re second to a lot of balls, and we’re on the back foot, kind of just waiting for things to happen,” Hernandez said. “And at that point, you’re going to get beat. I think that’s been the case the last two weeks.
“I don’t think that’s the kind of team we are. I think we can turn the ship around, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of assessment from guys looking in the mirror and understanding what it is they need to do.”
The Quakes will clock in early Monday morning to start that long process.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes