It was an impressive goal, to be sure, which Bobby Convey scored as the Earthquakes practiced 10-vs.-10 on a shortened field Thursday afternoon.
Streaking down the right sideline, he plucked a long pass from goalkeeper Andrew Weber out of the air with an outstretched toe, using that same one touch to deftly maneuver the ball around his marker and freeing himself up to rip a shot past Joe Cannon for a goal.
“Get off of me!” Convey bellowed, preceding it with an expletive and following it with a couple fist-pumps for emphasis.
It was a celebration worthy of a bigger stage, and served to highlight one obvious fact: San Jose’s players are itching to get back on the field and prove the Quakes’ season-opening loss to Real Salt Lake was an aberration, not a nascent pattern.
“To get beat 3-0, what you don’t want is for it to continue, and then you really start to get jittery and nervous,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said after training. “So we’ve got to make sure we pick the guys up, make sure they’re ready for the next game.”
To that end, Yallop has been using the first half of his team’s two-week layoff between games -- San Jose won’t take the field again until April 10 in Chicago -- not only to iron out some wrinkles that RSL exposed, but more importantly to keep his team on an even keel, mentally.
“We’re working on some stuff that we struggled with, which is closing and emotion,” Yallop said. “The training’s been great, which is always important. The signs are good that we haven’t ducked our heads and think the season’s over. It’s one game, and we’ve got to look at it that way.”
The idea of nipping a bad start in the bud has its roots in the Earthquakes’ 2009 season, which infamously began 1-7-2 and never truly recovered.
“I went through this in Colorado,” said goalkeeper Joe Cannon, referring to the Rapids’ 2005 season, when they opened 2-8-2. “You put yourself in a hole in the first game, and it just mounts and mounts. The only thing that gets you out of it is hard work.”
The Earthquakes have been doling out copious amounts of that in their practices, to the point where players are starting to get on each other’s nerves with the spirited competition. Yet to some extent nothing will change until San Jose gets a chance to even up its record.
“I thought we shook off [memories of 2009] in preseason, put some really solid performances together, got a bunch of clean sheets, didn’t really give up many goals, but with the dynamic play of their midfield and their forwards making runs, it wasn’t as easy as that,” said defender Jason Hernandez. “I don’t think 3-0 really reflects the way the game went, but that was the score line at the end of it.”
Even in defeat, the Earthquakes were heartened by the fact that some of their best chances to score came after Chris Leitch was sent off early in the second half, leaving San Jose one man down.
Although it didn’t change the outcome, it served as some evidence of resiliency -- a trait that was missing from many of San Jose’s first 10 games last season.
“Obviously, this is a very disappointing start, but we can’t let this bring us down,” attacker Arturo Alvarez said. “I think we’ve got to forget about last year. We’re going to be a team this year that fights through 90 minutes, no matter what, if we’re winning 2-0 or if we’re down 2-0. I think we showed that. “