For two years, the sight of “San Jose Earthquakes” next up on the schedule has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of MLS opponents.
The 2010 Quakes might just be changing that perception. Armed with a stingier defense, a rediscovered Bobby Convey and a freshly unearthed scoring option in Chris Wondolowski, a match against San Jose can no longer be counted as an easy opportunity to scoop up three points.
The question is, how long until opponents to pay the Quakes more respect?
“Obviously, if a team’s doing well and winning and scoring goals, you have to take them seriously,” Convey told MLSsoccer.com. “But I hope they don’t, because we’ll keep coming and winning.”
San Jose coach Frank Yallop doesn’t expect teams to radically alter their game plan just to stop the Quakes’ momentum. In fact, he’s somewhat loath to admit that the team has any of that elusive substance at all.
“We’ve got to apply ourselves correctly and make sure that we’re ready to go, because coming off a good win at home, you can’t expect to play the next game expecting to win,” Yallop said. “You’ve got to earn it again, because it’s a brand-new game.”
San Jose has been helped by playing four of its six matches at Buck Shaw Stadium. With road trips to New England this weekend and Seattle after that, the Quakes will achieve balance on that front.
If they can win one or even both of those matches, it would make a statement that San Jose is a legitimate playoff contender.
“We have good belief,” Yallop said. “We’re excited to go play anywhere. We’re going to New England, we’re going to Seattle—no problem. Whether we win or not, it’s not going to be an issue with nerves or us not thinking we can win. We’re going there to win both games.”
Winning helps raise the confidence level in any locker room, so it’s no surprise that the Quakes are seeing an increased amount of harmony these days. They’re also encountering an elevated level of self-imposed expectations.
“I think you can feel it maybe a little more this year, that guys are like, ‘Look, it’s getting a result or it’s not acceptable,’ ” defender Chris Leitch told MLSsoccer.com. “I think overall, there is this feeling of togetherness, that we can accomplish a result every game, and it’s good to be a part of it.
Said Convey: “The games can’t really come quick enough for us right now. We don’t want to train, we want to play games and everyone is just looking forward to the next game.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes