For the first time during a remarkable turnaround season that saw the San Jose Earthquakes reach the brink of the MLS Cup, their offense simply couldn’t find a way to keep the run headed in the right direction.
The Earthquakes managed just one shot on goal in their 1-0 loss in the Eastern Conference Championship loss to the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, and were forced to lament the fact that their offense sputtered when it counted most.
WATCH: Full match highlights
“Our final pass was the only thing lacking,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “If we had a little more edge in front of goal, I think we would have scored a goal. We got into good spots, but our final pass was lacking.”
The Earthquakes couldn’t have asked for a better scoring chance than the one they got in the 63rd minute. Midfielder Ryan Johnson drifted a cross to the waiting head of Budweiser Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski, who missed the equalizer when his header skipped just wide of the far post.
Wondolowski scored on a similar play in last week’s 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls, when his leaping header finished off a Bobby Convey cross and clinched the semifinal series in stunning fashion for San Jose.
But on Saturday night the ball caromed wide, leaving the league’s leading scorer to lament what went wrong.
“On the six yard-line, middle of the goal, that’s as easy you can get,” Wondolowski said. “It was some ball by RJ, and I gotta at least put that on frame. That was horrible. I’ll be having nightmares about that one.”
[inline_node:323255]The Earthquakes were forced to play catch up the entire second half after Kosuke Kimura’s goal just before the break gave the Rapids the lead, and San Jose simply couldn’t find an equalizer.
“They got 9, 10, 11 guys behind the ball and when you do that, it’s very hard to break down,” Wondolowski said. “We got some crosses in and some chances, but they defended well and covered for each other.”
Said Convey: “They try to get their one goal, and then they defend. And that’s what happened.”
San Jose’s Brandon McDonald also skipped a header wide midway through the second half, a chance that Yallop said he wishes his young defender had back.
“He had a free header, and if he hits the target it’s a goal,” Yallop said. “Wondo had a good chance but a little harder than Brandon’s, but that’s football. Some go in, some don’t.”
Colorado outshot San Jose 15-8 in the match, and the Earthquakes struggled to force Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens into any sticky situations. The veteran netminder needed to make just one save behind a steady Rapids defense that allowed 32 goals during the regular season, second-best in franchise history.
“Matt didn’t have a lot to do,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “Credit to their team. When your goalkeeper doesn’t have much to do game in and game out, you’re gonna be successful.”
“In the attacking third, that’s where we make our money, that’s where we want to be sharp,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “Unfortunately our guys couldn’t get a play off tonight, but that’s a credit to their defense.”