Given that they allowed only two legitimate shots on goal -- and that both of those came from 20 or more yards out -- the San Jose Earthquakes were never in any real danger of losing Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
Of course, when you consider the Quakes’ track record against the Rapids, this can hardly be considered a surprise.
By suffocating what had been the MLS’ most prolific offense for a 1-0 victory, San Jose extended their unbeaten streak against Colorado to 12 consecutive matches. Since losing in Denver on April 24, 2004, the Quakes are 8-0-4 against the Rapids.
Needless to say, that’s San Jose’s best current mark, by a wide margin, against any MLS opponent; the Quakes’ second-longest unbeaten streak is three whole matches against D.C. United.
“It’s funny, especially because there’s so much parity in this league, but sometimes you just have a certain team’s number,” said Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who scored the only goal in the latest win.
San Jose started dialing Colorado’s number Saturday by canceling out service for the Rapids’ No. 1 target, Conor Casey. The Denver native, the league’s second-leading scorer last season with 16 goals, was reduced to making plaintive gestures to his teammates, begging them to play him the ball more quickly after yet another buildup was turned aside by San Jose’s defense.
“Completely,” Quakes holding midfielder Brandon McDonald said when asked if he could sense Casey’s mounting frustration. “But when it’s come the 70th minute and you’re down 1-0, any team and any player is going to get frustrated. You want to get goals, you want to get the tables turned.”
Omar Cummings, Casey’s usual running mate, couldn’t even muster such a display. That was probably due to the fact that he was marooned along the wing, making no difference at all in the run of play.
“We were trying to do an effective job of taking away something from them,” Quakes center back Jason Hernandez said. “Omar seemed to be drifting wide right a lot of the game, so I made it a point to stay wide on the left side and back up Ramiro [Corrales, San Jose’s left back], so if he were to come inside, I’m going to give him a run for his money, pace-wise.
“Conor’s obviously a big, physical guy and Bobby [Burling, Hernandez’s partner Saturday at center back] can match up well with that. So we do our best to neutralize the opposing team’s most dangerous threats up top, and we did a good job.”
If San Jose could cast a similar spell over a couple other opponents, their road back to the MLS playoffs would become a veritable highway. But then again, there’s always traffic heading in the opposite direction on a highway.
“This year, Salt Lake seems to have our number," said Hernandez. "They beat up on us in the first game and also in the Open Cup. It’s just one of those things where teams feel good against you and for whatever reason they can match up well against you, and we can match up well against Colorado. We like that matchup, and even though those guys are a really imposing force on some other teams, for whatever reason, we can do well."
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @sjquakes.