Both San Jose and Toronto rode smokin’ hot streaks onto the pitch at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night. The Quakes were on a four-game undefeated streak, while Toronto was riding a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
After a 3-1 loss in a mostly lackluster outing, the Earthquakes’ streak ended with a thud while Toronto’s keeps burning.
Up until the final 20 minutes of the game – when they fielded a hail-mary cluster of five attacking players – the Quakes couldn’t establish a solid spell of possession or momentum. And from coach Frank Yallop on down, the most frequently used word in the postgame locker room was “flat.”
“I thought we were flat in the first half especially,” Yallop told reporters. “The energy wasn't good and we didn't play particularly well at all. Our finishing wasn’t great – and we have been clinical at times this year. Despite [our] chances, we couldn’t manage an equalizer in the last 15 minutes.”
Yallop added that it’s especially hard to recover from a goal like Chad Barrett’s in the 31st minute on a night when you’re not firing on all cylinders.
“Once you concede a goal and you don't get going, you're not confident," he said. "We were not confident tonight – until maybe it was too late.”
There's a fine line between confident and composed on the ball and a little too casual. On Saturday, the Quakes seemed to lack confidence in the early going and they never quite recovered. A series of miscues led to Toronto's opening goal, when Barrett collected and finished a poorly headed back-pass from defender Jason Hernandez to goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
“I think we both know that we could have done a little better on that play,” said Hernandez. “At the same time, we've had four shutouts in a row, so we know what we're doing back there. Over the course of a season, you're going to make mistakes [and], unfortunately, today was that day.”
For the Quakes, Saturday night’s match against Toronto marked the beginning of a tough, two-game stretch in which the team hosts Columbus on June 2 and travels to face conference rival Dallas on June 5 before the break.
Given the parity in MLS, no team likes to concede valuable points at home, and the “flat” performance against TFC was a missed opportunity for San Jose to distance themselves from their peers in a tightly packed Western Conference in which the Quakes now share the third-place spot with Colorado and Houston.
“You have good days and [you] have bad days, and you hope that your good days are on game day,” said Cannon. “That wasn't the case tonight.
“From the front line to the back, nothing was as crisp as it was the past few weeks. I think we all know that. It’s nothing to overanalyze – just a bad night. We'll learn from it, move on, and look forward to a good night against Columbus.”