SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes had a chance to move into a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference on Saturday night.
But after a second straight late defensive breach at Avaya Stadium, the Quakes had to content themselves with inching one point closer to the West’s ever-elusive red line thanks to a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders.
“One hundred percent, we’re in the mix,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said after his club moved to within two points of Sporting Kansas City and Portland, who hold the fifth and sixth spots in the Western table. “Five games home, two games away … We’re there. Now Wednesday becomes real important.”
That’s when the Montreal Impact take their long-delayed California trip, originally scheduled for April 25 but moved due to the Impact’s CONCACAF Champions League run. The Quakes will be hoping in that match to regain the form from their recent four-game winning streak, which ended last weekend at the hands – or more precisely, the head – of Philadelphia forward Conor Casey, who scored in the 74th and 86th minutes to give the Union a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.
“I think we’re running out of time to take positives and silver linings and things like that,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski said. “These last six games, you really need these three [points]. That’s been our mentality for way too long now, after we got out of [a point-free] July, I think. … You’ll pick some [matches] up, you’ll drop some, but we have to stop dropping leads. That’s for sure.”
This instance might have hurt more for the fact that Seattle’s Obafemi Martins found the 82nd-minute equalizer off a 50-50 rebound that was inches from being sent to safety by Quakes center back Clarence Goodson. It was reminiscent of San Jose’s July trip to Portland, when Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury jammed home a 91st-minute winner as Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi’s attempted clearance missed by the slimmest of margins.
“I thought they had zero chances,” Goodson said of the Sounders, whose only two shots on net all night were Zach Scott’s header from a free kick to start the goal-scoring sequence and Martins’ left-footed shot to end it. “I’m a toe from hitting it, Oba gets a foot on it and it’s just under the bar. It’s unlucky. I think we deserved to win the game. We should have won it, but we didn’t. But we also didn’t lose it, so we’re three points back [of Seattle] with a game in hand.”
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In any case, the Quakes have made certain that the final games of Avaya’s inaugural season will be meaningful ones. That beats last year – when San Jose endured a 15-game winless stretch in league play to close out the season – by a wide margin.
“Last year, we were out of the mix with 10 games to go,” Goodson said. “I think we’re a lot better off than we were last year. We’re a lot better team. We have a lot more talent this year. … I think our best XI is a group that can compete with any team in the league.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.