The San Jose Earthquakes will not play at Buck Shaw Stadium again in 2010. And that may be a very good thing.
For much of this season, the Quakes have posted the majority of their points on the road. San Jose wound up garnering 22 of their 46 points away from the Bay Area, a ratio second only to the LA Galaxy among MLS playoff sides.
The Quakes have puzzled over the reasons behind the numbers, without finding any definitive answers. As they look to the second half of their Eastern Conference semifinal with the New York Red Bulls on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2), it’s no longer a matter of explaining the phenomenon, but wholeheartedly embracing it.
“To be honest, I think everyone’s worried except the guys in the locker room right now,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski said. “We just need to go get a win. We feel we can do that. We’ve been good on the road this year, even better than at home. That’s not always a good thing, but it is right now, and so we still feel confident.”
In hindsight, San Jose coach Frank Yallop said the fact that his team came up with a victory in their very first road match of the season – 2-1 at Chicago on April 10 – was a bit of a harbinger and a blueprint, of sorts, for their success.
Nine of San Jose’s 13 victories this season have come by one goal, meaning the classic recipe for success has been to get that slimmest of leads and then shut the opposition down cold.
“I think it’s the mentality,” Yallop said. “It’s getting a result, and then what got you that result, you go back to it, time and time and time again. So when you’ve won early, which we did in Chicago, you’re kind of like, ‘That’s how we’re going to do it.’ We can drop a little bit, but we squeeze [defensively] and make sure it’s difficult, a big bank of tough guys, and we don’t get stretched out. We keep it tight.”
There’s also a sense of adversity on the road that the Quakes – who, as the No. 8 seed, would travel to either Columbus or Colorado if they advance – seem to thrive on.
Wondolowski likened his team to the MacGyvers of MLS, able to craft victories out of “a toothpick and a snorkel.”
“We did it in the middle of the season, when our backs were against the wall and we were in must-win situations, and we won all the games that we needed to win to get to the point that we’re at now,” Quakes midfielder Khari Stephenson said. “So I think history will serve in our favor and we’ll go out there and get the job done.”
Wondolowski even tried to float the idea there are positives to trailing 1-0 after losing to New York on Saturday.
“We don’t love where we’re at, but to be honest, we were talking, and some of us would rather be down 1-0 than trying to sit back on a 1-0 lead and just almost bunkering,” Wondolowski said. “We like to do this better and it almost fits our situation better.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes
Ready to launch: MLS Matchday 2010, The new official MLS iPhone app. It's FREE! Download it here!