For weeks now, the San Jose Earthquakes have searched fruitlessly for a piece of good fortune. Just one deflection, one slip by an opponent, one rebound falling at the right player’s feet – any of those occurrences might have put a stop to the Quakes’ lengthening league winless streak.
Unfortunately for San Jose, when that moment finally arrived Saturday night, it wasn’t enough.
Quincy Amarikwa took advantage of a whiff by Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis to score his fourth goal in five appearances since coming back to the Quakes this summer – this one an improbable equalizer after San Jose had gone down a goal and a man in the second half.
The Dynamo, however, went back on top seven minutes later when Alex redirected a stinging low cross from Sheanon Williams, giving the hosts a 2-1 victory and three critical points in a battle between two clubs trailing the pack in the Western Conference’s playoff chase.
San Jose (7-10-5, 26pts) are now winless in their last six league matches – five of those defeats – and nine games overall. The Quakes have been outscored 13-4 in MLS play since knocking off LA on June 27.
It’s the kind of stretch that stirs up echoes of San Jose’s slide to end 2014, when the Quakes set a club-worst mark by going 15 straight league games without a victory.
“The obvious answer is, ‘Win,’” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters after being asked what must happen to spark a turnaround. “And a little bit of luck. We’ve had absolutely no luck. Sometimes you make your own luck, too. We’re doing a lot of things to keep pressure on ourselves.”
It was an evening that started with some promise for San Jose, even though midfield creator Matias Perez Garcia was absent due to a left leg injury, but the Quakes didn’t reward themselves for creating opportunities. Shea Salinas fired well high from 22 yards, Chris Wondolowski hammered a second ball from a free kick just outside the area into Houston’s wall and Marc Pelosi (making his first MLS start in place of Perez Garcia) pushed his top-of-the-box attempt wide – all inside of 13 minutes.
Houston goalkeeper Willis, on in place of injured Tyler Deric, kept things scoreless when Wondolowski broke free on a quick free kick over the top. San Jose’s captain put his 14-yard volley straight into Willis.
“We had a couple of chances and didn’t finish them,” Wondolowski told reporters. “Me personally, I had a very good one, and I think if I bury that, it changes the whole dynamic of the game.”
Instead, Houston wiggled off the hook, and the hosts took advantage in the second half, going up on DaMarcus Beasley's slaloming 55th-minute charge through San Jose’s back line.
Quakes midfielder Fatai Alashe, who might have seen red for a full-blooded challenge on Houston's Luis Garrido late in the first half, was whistled for a too-obvious yank on Giles Barnes in the 60th minute leading to the rookie’s first ejection as a professional.
San Jose clawed back into the game in the 65th minute when Shaun Francis headed Cordell Cato’s long cross-field pass toward the goal. Wondolowski’s fearless near-post run seemed to distract the charging Willis, who made no contact with his attempt. Amarikwa ushered the ball home to give the Quakes new life.
The Quakes couldn’t come up with another dose of magic after that.
“We’ve got to play a full 90 minutes,” Wondolowski said. “We can’t fall asleep for five or 10 minutes here and there. We make mistakes and we get punished, and rightfully so. . . . We just lapsed [on the winning goal]. There was a one-two. There’s no excuse for that. Man down, whatever, you have to be aware of all those things. It’s just a square ball across the box. You’ve got to be able to handle that.”