If any single image stood out as an example of the San Jose Earthquakes’ rough night in a 2-0 loss to Chivas USA on Wednesday, it could have been the look of disappointment on the face of star forward Chris Wondolowski after he waited and waited and waited for a pass from teammate Ryan Johnson on a developing break.
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By the time Johnson finally delivered his through ball, Wondolowski had been pulled offside by all his stutter-stepping while trying to time his run.
It was a fitting epitaph for the Quakes’ defeat, which finished off the Goats’ first-ever season sweep of a San Jose team.
“To be honest, both offense and defensively, our whole team was on a different page from each other,” Wondolowski said. “We couldn’t connect any passes and couldn’t defend well as a team. That’s never a good formula for success. Offensively, I felt we had opportunities to try to exploit them and try to be dangerous, and we couldn’t do that.”
As the 2010 Golden Boot winner suggests, nobody in white emerged unscathed. Right back Steven Beitashour left just before the half after suffering an apparent muscle strain in his right leg. Forward Steven Lenhart received a yellow card for diving in the 60th minute and will therefore miss the Quakes’ match this weekend against Philadelphia due to caution accumulation.
As for the rest, it was a dispirited and disjointed performance that dredged up painful recollections of San Jose’s first meeting with Chivas USA this season. The Goats came back from an early Wondolowski goal to win 2-1 at Buck Shaw on April 23.
“It was just one of those nights that’s very frustrating to sit and watch because I felt that if we could just put our game together a little bit, we could get something out of the match,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “But we couldn’t. We couldn’t even string many passes together.”
It’s tempting, as the Quakes did, to call the outcome a one-off situation. But the performance highlighted the fact that Wondolowski, in his second match back after a month-long absence with the US national team, looks a far cry from the player who scored in four of his last six games leading into the Gold Cup.
“Mentally, I think I’m alright,” Wondolowski said. “It’s just getting back into it and trying to keep working hard and try to get chances and when I do get chances, [to] finish them. That’ll be a big key for me.
“It’s one of those things. All strikers go through it. Sometimes anything you hit goes in, sometimes no matter how well you hit it, it doesn’t go in.”
Unlike on Saturday against New York, when there was some comfort in knowing that he had clanged his best chance hard off the post, just inches from scoring, Wondolowski was prevented Wednesday from even getting a decent sniff at the goal guarded by Chivas’ Dan Kennedy.
That was true even though Yallop moved Wondolowski — who seemed marooned at times on the right wing against the Red Bulls – back into the center of the pitch, playing underneath Lenhart.
Even when Simon Dawkins came on at the half to replace right midfielder Joey Gjertsen, it was Dawkins who had to play out wide while Wondolowski and Lenhart tried to rekindle their magic — to no avail.
“Of course it’s frustrating when you lose and you’re a forward and you don’t get many opportunities,” Wondolowski said. “We just need to connect the passes. There were too many passes going way out of bounds or to the other team. We need to try to do the little things a lot better: win our 50-50 passes, track runners and see if guys can defend as a team.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes