SAN JOSE, Calif. – There are plenty of explanations behind the San Jose Earthquakes’ offensive production in 2013, but the math doesn’t care to hear them. The numbers are what they are. And what they are is not very pretty.
With six goals in eight matches, the Quakes are on pace to score 26 goals this season – and that includes a half-goal bump due to rounding. That’s fewer goals than San Jose star Chris Wondolowski scored by himself last year en route to winning the league’s MVP award, and barely more than one-third of the Quakes’ franchise-record 72-goal haul.
Even so, as San Jose prepare to face Chivas USA on Saturday (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live), there is so sign of coach Frank Yallop mashing the panic button.
“Not really,” Yallop said this week when asked if he was concerned about his attack. “I think that once we have all our available players, goals will come. … It’s all about the team creating chances and guys taking them. Confidence, all those things come into it. We have the ability, we’ve shown [that] already.”
That ability was severely curtailed without attack-minded right back Steven Beitashour, winger Marvin Chávez and forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart during many of San Jose’s first eight matches. That quartet – which combined for 26 goals and 28 assists in 2012 – played in 63.6 percent of the club’s available minutes last season.
This year, the foursome has featured in just 16.0 percent of San Jose’s time on the pitch, with Lenhart leading at 24.2 percent.
Yet even with Beitashour and Chávez making their 2013 debuts last weekend against Portland, the Quakes still left it til the 92nd minute to get on the scoreboard, through a goal by rookie forward Adam Jahn that earned San Jose a 1-1 tie.
“Last year it was just kind of a bit of a phenomenon,” Wondolowski said of the 72 goals, which ranks third all-time in league annals. “It’s great to score that many goals, [but] you can’t count on that again. But we’re not worried. We still know that we’re creating a lot of opportunities.”
That final point is up for debate. The Quakes have averaged 3.5 shots on goal per match this season, compared to a league-leading 5.65 last year. And while Wondolowski has failed to capitalize on some chances that might have been goals in 2012 – “Wondo’s got three, maybe could have had eight,” is how Yallop put it – San Jose as a whole have not matched last year’s menace except in short bursts.
Nevertheless, the Quakes are playing things cool. After watching a Supporters’ Shield run crumble in the playoffs thanks, yes, to injuries, San Jose are using the blueprint of their vanquishers and eventual champs as their inspiration.
“Look at the Galaxy,” Beitashour told reporters after Sunday’s match. “It’s not necessarily how you start, it’s how you finish. Once we get all our guys back, it’s going to be good. There’s some more fireworks coming up.”
Said Wondolowski: “Will we score 70 goals? I’m not sure. We’ll find out. Ask me after 34 games.”