Earthquakes: 'Disappointing, disheartening, infuriating'

San Jose outmanned, outmatched in opening loss to RSL

In the wake of Chris Leitch’s
last-ditch tackle and ensuing red card, San Jose fought with only 10 men for
the final 37 minutes of their season-opening 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at Buck
Shaw Stadium on Saturday night [WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE].

But to the Earthquakes, it felt like
the defending MLS Cup champions were holding a man advantage for much longer
than that.

A swarming RSL midfield did exactly
what it set out to do against a confused San Jose unit, dominating possession
and creating chances that led to a pair of goals from Javier Morales and a
third from Fabián Espíndola.

“We were having trouble with second
balls, just because they were putting so many [players] around the ball,”
Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez said after the match. “It seemed like at times they had an
extra man in the midfield, and they were creating trouble for us.”

You could make the argument the
Earthquakes defense wasn’t as bad as all that, pointing out that Morales’
goals came on a pair of unstoppable shots, blasted into the upper corner of the
far post with no chance for goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

But after all the work that went
into retooling the back line and reformatting the midfield not to give up
possession so easily, the Quakes weren’t willing to let themselves off the
hook.

“There’s not much that I can say,
positively, defensively,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “It looked like
defensively, we were a shambles.”

After watching his team pot three
goals on the road for the first time since winning 3-2 against San Jose in Buck
Shaw in Sept. 2008, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis admitted the obvious: Yes,
there are still holes in the Earthquakes defense that can be exploited.

“But let’s be honest," Kreis explained. "It’s early
days in the season, and some of that is going to come through being together
for a little bit longer period of time. And, offensively, I think
we’re a pretty good team. We can cause some troubles.”

Rookie center back Ike Opara looked
shaky at times while making his MLS debut in the starting lineup alongside
Hernandez, but the problems extended farther up the field than that. For evidence,
look no further than the fact that Yallop felt the need to replace midfielders
Javier Robles and Bobby Convey at the half.

Brandon McDonald came on for Robles
and took over as the defensive center midfielder, hoping to provide some steel
against RSL’s efficient diamond formation, which was powered by the
otherworldly Morales. Joey Gjertsen replaced Convey, hoping to spark some
offense on the wings.

“I wanted to put a bit of force in
there,” Yallop said. “I think that Brandon added that ... I felt that when
we did make the changes, it did make a difference.”

Then came Leitch’s red card, which
helped blunt San Jose’s attempts to get back into the match. Perhaps if Arturo
Alvarez had slipped one through in the 60th minute rather than banging it off
the post, or if André Luiz’s rebound shot had been on frame instead of sailing
high, things might have been different.

The Earthquakes can take some solace
in the fact that they have two weeks to implement solutions and integrate new
forward Eduardo into the mix before taking the field again on April 10 in
Chicago. In the meantime, the memories of
chasing RSL around the pitch will linger.

“Disappointing, disheartening, infuriating,” Hernandez said. “We’ve had a really strong preseason. Everything
was in order to prepare us for this point, and when it counted, we didn’t show
up.”

Added Cannon: “You try to take
positives out of things, and I’m a pretty positive person. But, tonight, at
home, losing 3-0 ... it’s embarrassing.”