There were plenty of regulars on the pitch at the final whistle for the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night.
Unfortunately for the Quakes, there was also a familiar road outcome: a momentary defensive lapse, followed by a game-turning goal.
It all added up to a 1-0 road loss at the hands of Guatemalan side Heredia, who find themselves atop Group 5 in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“I thought for the most part we were pretty solid,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson told reporters at Estadio Cementos Progreso. “I didn’t think it was a great game. I thought there wasn’t a ton of quality in the match.”
The Quakes, who were criticized in some quarters for fielding an entirely different XI in their CCL debut against Montreal earlier this month, could not be accused of going negative this time around. Even with some changes to account for this being the middle game of a three-match, eight-day road trip, Watson still had regulars Victor Bernardez, Rafael Baca and leading scorer Chris Wondolowski on the pitch to open the game. And they were joined by subs Cordell Cato, Steven Lenhart and Marvin Chavez in the final 28 minutes.
San Jose dominated possession by a nearly 60-40 count, but couldn’t create much in the way of truly dangerous attacking on the artificial surface at the Guatemala City stadium, which Heredia is using because their own home ground is not rated for CCL contests.
“The surface was definitely hard to adjust to, but I think it was tough for both teams,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re not using the surface as an excuse. At the end of the day, we were here to get a result and that didn’t happen.”
Heredia, on the other hand, took full advantage of the impact from 58th-minute substitute Anderson Andrade. Ten minutes after he checked in, the Brazilian took command of a throw in, dribbled around two San Jose defenders and forced Quakes midfielder Ramiro Corrales to step up in response.
The ensuing collision with Corrales finally halted Andrade’s dangerous run at the top corner of San Jose’s penalty area. But the ball rolled untouched for Enrique Miranda to hammer with a right-footed shot which Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham could not keep out of the net.
“In the end, we’re very disappointed,” Watson said. “[It was] a good defensive performance to be ruined by one play.”
San Jose will jet back to the U.S. sitting 0-2 in their CCL debut, having suffered a pair of one-goal losses away from home. To advance beyond pool play, the Quakes will have to depend on winning twice at Buck Shaw Stadium -- against Montreal on Sept. 17, and Heredia on Oct. 23 -- while hoping the Impact beat the Jaguares on Sept. 24.
“This group is showing like you have to win your home games,” Watson said. “We know that our destiny is still in our own hands. . . . We’re disappointed, but know that there’s everything still to play for.”
On the positive side, San Jose’s track record at home this season is 8-1-4, and they haven’t lost at Buck Shaw since the season opener, nearly six months ago.
“The silver lining is that we still have two home games to go,” Wondolowski said. “We’re a tough team to beat at home. I think we have some of the best fans in MLS and I absolutely believe we can get six points at home.”