In a league where homefield advantage plays a huge part, the San Jose Earthquakes haven’t had any such help this season.
It’s not that the five-figure crowds in cozy Buck Shaw Stadium aren’t giving the home side their full support. The results simply haven’t been forthcoming for San Jose, who are one of only two teams in the league who currently have picked up more points on the road (12) than at home (11).
The Quakes had a chance to remedy that situation Saturday, but instead suffered a 1-0 defeat to Seattle. San Jose haven’t won at home since May 8, going 0-2-2 in that stretch while getting outscored 7-4.
WATCH: FULL HIGHLIGHTS: SJ 0, SEA 1
“We come home and we don’t perform,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said during an in-game interview just after Fredy Montero scored in the 26th minute. “We’re scared to play. And it’s bad.”
Yallop also said that his team was showing “no emotion” and didn’t look like it wanted the game, and winger Arturo Alvarez picked up that theme in a quiet post-game locker room.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” Alvarez said. “We’re at home. I think we didn’t need to get to the point of chasing the game like that. We need to come out with everything we have. We knew how important this game was. We can’t come out flat like that. We kind of put ourselves in a hole there.”
But there also is a tactical shift the Quakes are failing to successfully negotiate. San Jose have been at their best all season long when they soak up pressure from the opposition and hit them with a counterattack – see the Quakes’ 2-1 win, secured in injury time, at PPL Park against the Union on July 10.
That plan of waiting to pounce on an opponent’s mistake doesn’t work at home, however, where visiting teams are happy to play for the tie and take a free point if pressure isn’t applied to them. And when San Jose try to play such a high-press style, it doesn’t work, as in the case of Montero slipping deftly through the Quakes’ defense Saturday and slamming home an open header from the edge of the six-yard box.
“I think when we’re on the road, there’s this us-against-the-world mentality,” right back Jason Hernandez said. “We’re going into a hostile environment. We kind of sit back in our bank of eight or bank of 10 defensively and counterattack more. Here, I think we press the issue more and try to get the other team on the back foot, which creates a lot of gaps because we’re running and pushing and trying to get after them a bit.
“It’s two different game plans, and at home we haven’t seemed to figure out a way to press the other team and make it difficult for them without giving up space for them to play. That’s something we need to work on.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @sjquakes.