SAN JOSE, Calif. – By virtue of the fact that the San Jose Earthquakes’ annual visit to Stanford Stadium lands just before the Fourth of July, the midsummer edition of the California Clasico has become a convenient time to consider where the Quakes are at in a given season.
In 2018, it doesn’t take much by way of assessment: The Quakes sit last in the Western Conference on 11 points, with a 2-9-5 record, and have the worst points-per-game mark of any MLS side (0.69).
“Nowhere where we need to be, should be, can be,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com this week about the team’s state. “[We were] pretty poor the first half of the year, to be honest, and I think we all know that. But the thing is, no one’s belief has wavered. I think that’s a very important thing. I’ve been in locker rooms where the belief has left and it’s not a good thing. I think that we can right this ship and we will right the ship.”
Beating the LA Galaxy – another team currently sitting on the outside of the Western Conference playoff field – would be a good step in the right direction. San Jose’s two victories thus far have both come against Minnesota – who won’t face the Quakes again until 2019.
“It’s a funny game. It’s all about confidence,” leading scorer Danny Hoesen told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course, if you win games, you get confidence and you also create your own luck. It’s been bad all season. I think we had a very good preseason and maybe gave us too much confidence.”
Hoesen’s 10 goals – tied for third in the league – have helped sharpen a San Jose attack which struggled much of last season. But the Quakes are giving up two goals per match, an average that ranks ahead of only one other MLS team (Orlando is last at 2.06) and has left them winless since May 12.
San Jose are adding help in the way of Georgia captain Guram Kashia, but the 30-year-old center back won’t arrive from Vitesse until after the transfer window opens on July 10.
“We’ve conceded too many goals so far,” San Jose coach Mikael Stahre told MLSsoccer.com. “Our scoring record is good, actually. But we have to stabilize our defense, for sure, and concede less chances. If we do that, concede less chances and less goals, then we have a great chance to improve, make the last part of the league [schedule] much better and win much more games.”
To Wondolowski, the question is one of execution – and not just for goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell and the rest of San Jose’s defenders.
“It’s been a bit unfair to throw it all on Tarbell and our backline this year because from front to back, I think that’s always been a staple, that we defend with 11 – and we haven’t done that,” Wondolowski said. “We need to get back to those basics and we are getting back to those basics. … I don’t mean it in the sense where guys are taking plays off, but one guy turns off and then it’s a big [problem]; the way we press, the way we play, if everyone isn’t on the same page and doing the same thing, then we get exposed, and rightfully so.”
Stahre, the Quakes’ first-year boss, will be getting his initial taste of a home Cali Clasico. The Quakes were undone by Romain Alessandrini’s 82nd-minute arrow in a 1-0 loss at the StubHub Center on May 25.
“I know the importance to the fans, the ownership, to everyone around,” Stahre said. “For me, we have to take it game by game now. If you have a chance to reach the playoffs, then you have to win lots of games. Now we are focused on improving, step by step.”