BUCK SHAW STADIUM — A bad season for the San Jose Earthquakes just got a whole lot worse.
Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay
The Quakes fell into last place in the nine team Western Conference Wednesday evening, losing at home to fellow cellar dwellers Chivas USA 1-0.
It was another listless defeat for San Jose who have lost three straight, the last two at Bay Area locations.
It also marks the third consecutive match where the Quakes have failed to score, with the absence of former golden boot winner Chris Wondolowski continuing to have a major effect. Speedy winger Shea Salinas — a focal point of the Quakes attack this season — was also absent, still nursing a nagging abdominal strain.
Earthquakes manager Mark Watson described the frustration of letting another opportunity slip away:
“In terms of the play we were the better team, but it’s not about that. It’s about finishing your chances and not conceding. We gave up a sloppy goal, and we were a little sloppy at times. …It’s very disappointing.”
Watson may have been disappointed with the result, but devastated would be a better word to describe the scene in the San Jose locker room after the game.
When speaking to reporters, goalkeeper Jon Busch could hardly keep his head up when attempting to explain the Quakes’ free fall:
“This was one we needed. We’re playing well at times, and defensively I think we’re playing very well…It’s frustrating for us all. We knew this was an important game. We just gotta find a little bit more somewhere. All of us…We did the same thing last year and we came up short. We gotta pick up points period.”
The absence of Wondo, and a myriad of injuries throughout the season has put first year manager Mark Watson in a tough spot for most of the campaign. Wednesday night was one of the few times San Jose has trotted out the same lineup in consecutive games.
It would be reasonable to point to the lack of available players as a key reason in the lack of results. Busch however, doesn’t want to hear it:
“Doesn’t matter. We’ve got enough quality in this locker room to win games. It’s never an excuse. I don’t care who’s injured, I don’t care who’s healthy. We have enough quality. Us players on the field have to find a way to get results period. That’s what we are paid to do.”
Chivas USA striker Erik Torres continued his blistering run of form, scoring for the third game in a row to give the visitors the go-ahead goal early in the second half.
Torres’ effort came gift wrapped courtesy of the San Jose back line, who botched a clearance before whiffing on two headers, leaving Torres unmarked at the far post for an easy tap-in.
The Quakes nearly pulled the rabbit out of the hat, coming a deflection away from scoring in the final minute following a scrum in the box.
But San Jose failed to create chances all night, putting a measly two shots on target, and rarely testing Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
A couple questionable substitutions only increased the frustration for the 9,114 in attendance. First manager Mark Watson subbed off Sam Cronin — a set piece specialist who had the best first half of anybody in a San Jose uniform —for striker Alan Gordon.
Even more bizarrely, in the 79th minute, central defender Victor Bernardez came in for right-back Brandon Barklage, a head-scratcher considering the Quakes needed to chase the game for a result. Watson explained the decision after the match:
“We went to three at the back to try to add more numbers forward, so there was an opportunity to put him in the game.”
Steven Lenhart worked hard and had another strong game creating two of the Quakes best chances in the first half on two near miss headers on back-t0-back corner kicks.
Without Wondo, Lenhart was once again the only true striker in the starting lineup, but did his best to win balls in the air and link up with Cronin.
Chivas USA and San Jose swap spots at the bottom of the Western standings as the goats move up to eighth place, with San Jose holding a game in hand.
Despite the atrocious run of form, San Jose still find themselves only six games back from the fifth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference, with at least a game in hand on four of the five teams in the top five.
Watson said Wondolowski will be available — and welcomed with open arms — for next week’s home match against D.C. United. Clarence Goodson, Atiba Harris and Shea Salinas will all “hopefully” also be available.