At 2-2 in the standings, the San Jose Earthquakes are at a crossroads. The 2010 campaign could still go in the direction they want, or it could slouch towards a third year without a playoff appearance. Which way it goes will to some extent be determined by how much fight these Earthquakes have.
There aren’t usually many positives to take from a loss on the road, especially to a team that had been scuffling itself coming into the match. Yet in the wake of a 3-2 defeat to Chivas USA last Saturday, some Quakes were still brimming with confidence, thanks in part to their late goals in either half.
“It’s always hard to go down on the road, but we showed tremendous fight,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski said. “We were able to tie it back up 1-1 at halftime, and getting one in the 90th minute shows we never give up and we always try to get one, no matter what the score is.”
For much of last season, San Jose did not exactly specialize in comebacks. Of their first 12 victories or ties, the Quakes trailed and recovered to salvage points only twice, in ties against Dallas on June 7 and D.C. United on July 25.
But three of San Jose’s final four wins and ties featured comebacks, including the Quakes’ only come-from-behind win, a 2-1 road victory over D.C. United with second-half goals from Ramón Sánchez and Ryan Johnson.
“I think we definitely started to hit our stride towards the end of the year, and I think we carried it over,” Wondolowski said. “We have tremendous fight with this team. We’ll fight tooth and nail, fight for each other, cover for each other, do what it takes. I liked our fight [against Chivas]; we just came up a little short.”
Said goalkeeper Joe Cannon: “I don’t think we get our confidence from results. We know we’re fighters. We’re disappointed in the result, but we feel like maybe [Saturday] was an off-night and we got them on a great night."
Wondolowski may have best embodied that spirit, for the better and the worse. It was his run after Joey Gjertsen saved a long pass from the end line that forced a Chivas penalty in the 41st minute. And it was the Bay Area native who received a yellow card in the 72nd minute after getting into it with the opposition over, of all things, a matter of soccer etiquette.
The sequence began with Chivas defender Michael Umaña lying on the ground with an apparent injury after the hosts finished clearing a San Jose attack.
But rather than kick the ball out of bounds to allow Umana to be attended to, Chivas went on the offensive. So when the Quakes regained possession, Wondolowski felt no need to play the ball out, instead feeding Johnson for a header that was turned away by diving keeper Zach Thornton.
“They played on and we were down a goal, so I was always trying to look for a goal and get the biggest advantage,” Wondolowski said. “The referee thought I kind of started the melee afterwards. So that’s the reason for the yellow card, he said. It kind of comes with the territory. But if we’re down again, I’d probably do it again.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @sjquakes.