San Jose Earthquakes hang on to playoff hopes after loss to New York City FC: "Crazier stuff has happened"

It’s good that the 2015 San Jose Earthquakes will always have August--because it looks increasingly likely that they’ll need those memories to carry them through a fallow November.

The Quakes used a four-game winning streak in August to get back into contention for the Western Conference playoffs. But they've followed that up with an equally lengthy winless streak, a stretch of near futility that they extended Saturday with a 3-2 road defeat to New York City FC.

Seventh-place San Jose fought back in the final 20 minutes with a goal from Quincy Amarikwa and a penalty-kick conversion by Chris Wondolowski. But it simply wasn’t enough to overcome the Quakes’ defensive breakdowns that allowed NYCFC to open a 3-0 lead out of intermission.

San Jose have gone 0-2-2 -- including three games at Avaya Stadium -- with their playoff fates in their own collective hands.

“I appreciate the fight back from the guys,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. “I was really disappointed we were down 3-0, but at 3-2, we had a good chance to get something out of the game. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t get that good chance.”

It was the first time San Jose, who authored a league-best 448-minute shutout streak during their winning run, had coughed up three goals since a 3-1 defeat at Vancouver capped the Quakes’ winless July.

The scoring started with a 51st-minute breakaway by New York City's Ned Grabavoy, who fired a shot across the face of goal from the left side and got a helpful deflection from the sliding block attempt of Clarence Goodson.

“That turned the momentum in their favor a bit, and we just got punished -- the next two opportunities they got, they put them away,” Amarikwa said. “I think when we got a chance to get our wits and calm it down, we knew that we had the capability to get back into the game, but we allowed them to get a little bit too much. [It was] too late in the game.”

The same might be true of the season as a whole. After tying Seattle in the standings just three weeks ago, San Jose (11-12-7) now find themselves five points behind the surging fourth-place Sounders (14-13-3) with four matches remaining for both clubs. The Quakes are closer, points-wise, to Sporting Kansas City (12-8-8) and Portland (11-9-8), but both of those teams have two games in hand.

Realistically, San Jose have to win three of their last four -- and preferably all of them -- to have a legitimate chance of avoiding a third straight year spent dawdling at home during the MLS Cup postseason.

“We have a chance,” Kinnear said. “As long as we have a chance, I believe in these guys.”

The Quakes could take heart from the fact that they refused to quit despite conceding a brace to Grabavoy -- previously scoreless in 1625 minutes this season -- and giving up two headed goals in the space of two minutes to a side that only had two such tallies combined through their first 29 matches.

“This is MLS,” Amarikwa said. “Crazier stuff has happened. Just because we went down three goals doesn’t mean we were going to give up on the game. I think when a team goes up three, they kind of let their foot off the gas, so that’s your opportunity. If you pull one back, they start to panic, and the pressure’s on them to maintain the lead, and I think that’s what happened. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the third, but I think we gave them a run for their money.”

On Twitter: @quakesbeat