The San Jose Earthquakes’ rate of shots per game in MLS play is down only slightly vs. their mark from 2012 – 13.9 this season vs. 15.2. But it is the efficiency with which the Quakes are converting those opportunities – or lack thereof – that are causing problems for San Jose.
After perking up with three consecutive two-goal performances, the Quakes attack has gone back into hibernation at a most inopportune time. Heading into a key road match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), San Jose (3-5-6) have just one score in their last three league matches – and that doesn’t even get into a 1-0 loss in US Open Cup play to USL PRO side Charleston Battery on Tuesday.
San Jose ranked second among MLS teams last year in terms of shots per goal with 7.2 attempts and only the New York Red Bulls were more opportunistic with their chances at 6.9.
This season, the Quakes are averaging 15 shots per goal, which sits 17th out of 19 clubs. The Chicago Fire (19.6) and D.C. United (21.7) have kept San Jose out of the cellar.
“If you look at the game in Dallas [a 1-0 loss last Saturday], they had probably four really good chances to score, and we had probably the same,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “It should have been 1-1, probably, but it wasn’t. We’re not creating a ton of real quality chances, but enough to score more than we have. That’s the frustrating part for all of us.”
Individually speaking, the biggest drop in production comes from San Jose’s strike force, which takes up a considerable chunk of the club’s salary cap space. Newly minted Designated Player Chris Wondolowski does have five goals, but at last year’s pace, he’d be leading the league at 12. And Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart have been shut out entirely in 367 and 323 minutes, respectively.
Wondolowski, who leads the league with 56 shots, has been particularly snake-bit. His performance off the bench Tuesday against the Battery didn’t count in those totals, but it was perhaps emblematic when his curling free kick from just outside the area took a deflection and went from heading towards the far corner to crashing off the crossbar.
“We need to do better when we get those chances,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “It doesn’t matter if you get one or 10 in there. If you get one, you need to finish it. I know that we haven’t done that, and it’s hurt us.”
Last year, among the 67 MLS players to record at least 40 shots, Wondolowski ranked fourth in terms of efficiency by scoring on 21.3 percent of his attempts. But it was Gordon who sat atop that chart, at a whopping 30.2 percent. And the 31-year-old’s struggles came into sharp relief last weekend when he was yanked after a particularly ineffective first half.
“I don’t know if he’s still hindered (by the injuries), but he’s not moving as well as he did last year,” Yallop said of Gordon, who underwent two surgeries this winter. “Now he’s back to full fitness, and he’s got to get into the stride of how he played last year.”