SAN JOSE, Calif. — For a team that went unbeaten in MLS play during the month of May, the San Jose Earthquakes don’t exude much of a swagger.
Part of it is because San Jose still languish in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, one rung removed from dead last, despite going 2-0-2 in their last four league matches.
Another part has to do with the fact that the Quakes could have easily leapfrogged four teams in the West if they’d just been able to hold onto leads in Vancouver and Chicago. Ordinarily, getting a point on the road is a quality result, but not when you give up tying goals in the 90th minute (against the Whitecaps) and 80th minute (against the Fire).
So as the Quakes prepare to host Houston on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Galavisión), they know there are areas of concern to be worked on.
“Late in games, we’ve been giving up goals,” Quakes veteran Ramiro Corrales told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got to concentrate towards the end of the game. I don’t know if it’s mental tiredness or physical, but we’ve got to sort that out, because the way I look at it is, we lost two points [last week in Chicago] instead of gaining one.”
Not surprisingly, coach Frank Yallop wasn’t quite so dire in his assessment of the Quakes’ May, and it’s not without reason. Despite April stumbles that forced San Jose to shake things up in terms of player and formation usage, San Jose currently sit only two points out of playoff position in the expanded MLS.
“I would never say a draw’s a bad thing,” Yallop said. “I would if we were three-nil up. The other team’s trying to score, too. Chicago are pushing, they get a good goal to make it 2-2, [but] we did not lose the game, so I take it as a positive.
“New England came back at us and we held on [for a 2-1 win]. We did a nice job of making that game three points, and who cares what happened in it?" he added. "That’s the way you’ve got to look at it, for me. It’s making sure that we build on what we’ve done in the game before.”
Yallop said the coaching staff has emphasized the need to carefully guard late leads, but acknowledged there’s no easy way to drill for that situation. Even if your scout team is given the instructions to throw everyone forward, it doesn’t match the urgency of a live opponent digging to salvage a point from nothing.
“You’ve just got to make sure that you’re ready to fight and scrap,” Yallop said. “I think the big thing for us we don’t do (is) we don’t punish a team that’s pressing us. We don’t punish them when they’re putting a lot of numbers forward, giving us breaks where we should beat them. ... When we’re winning and they’re pressing us, we’ve got to go and score, just to make sure that the game’s over.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes