SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Earthquakes completed a rough stretch of four games in 12 days, all against quality opponents, with a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on the artificial turf at BC Place.
Newcomer Quincy Amarikwa followed his two-goal effort against the LA Galaxy with a goal in the 90th minute off a Shea Salinas assist. It was Amarikwa’s third goal in three games with the Quakes after a trade with the Chicago Fire.
“He's fit in great -- three goals in three games. He's a threat,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said of Amarikwa. “He's made a couple of looks in the games leading up to this. He works hard and he takes a little bit of beating at times, but he's played really well for us since he got here.”
The match marked the return of Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski one day after he played for the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Cordell Cato also started in his return to MLS play after competing for Trinidad & Tobago.
The Quakes (7-9-4, 25 points) are in ninth place in the Western Conference, and Vancouver (11-8-3, 36 points) is just two points behind first-place FC Dallas.
But with nine of their final 14 games this season at Avaya Stadium, beginning on Sunday against the Portland Timbers, the Quakes can still make a run.
"You could have asked me that in March and I would have told you the same thing,” Kinnear said. “We are falling away from some teams, but we do have games in hand at home against some conference opponents, which we need to take advantage of to get ourselves closer. I think it will come down to the last few weekends as it normally does."
Bright young newcomer Marc Pelosi also made his MLS debut, subbing in for Wondolowski in the 70th minute with the score 3-0. He appeared to spark the team a bit.
"It is always hard coming in when you're down 3-0, but I think we did better in the second half,” Pelosi said. “The first half was rough, you could see by the score line, but I think in the second half we did better as a team. We were attacking more and we had some more chances."
Vancouver took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute after a deflected ball rolled to midfielder Mauro Rosales, who shot past keeper David Bingham. The hill got steeper for San Jose when center back Clarence Goodson left the game with an injury in the 13th minute, and was replaced by Paulo Renato.
In the 32nd minute, Vancouver’s 6-foot-5 Costa Rican defender Kendall Waston headed home a Rosales corner kick. Octavio Rivero’s penalty kick made it 3-0 lead in the 56th minute.
The Quakes began to show some life on offense in the final 20 minutes, stringing a few paces and poking holes in the defense. Before Amarikwa’s goal, Salinas hit a shot off the bottom of the crossbar, and the ball bounced off the goal line and out.
Overall, though, the Quakes were hurt by a slow start and a lack of command in the center against a fast, physical and well-contructed opponent. Matias Perez Garcia did his best to break the Whitecaps down while absorbing fouls. Kinnear said the Quakes were “caught out of position a little bit. We were playing against good players and at times we were playing a little bit too stretched.”
"It's always tough to lose, this is always a tough place to play,” Wondolowski said. “I don't think we have won here since the conception of Whitecaps FC in MLS, so it's obviously very difficult and frustrating at the same time."
In typical style, Wondolowski hustled to Canada from Philadelphia to rejoin his teammates after playing 60 minutes in the USMNT’s shootout loss against Panama in the third-place game at PPL Park.
"I wanted to get with the guys,” Wondolowski said. “I wanted to move on, and it's always kind of rejuvenating to get back with the group. I felt pretty good, a little tired but felt good. Obviously, it's a little frustrating more than anything. I was up on the East Coast at 3:30 a.m."
During a taxing two-week stretch, the Quakes faced Club America and Manchester United in the International Champions Cup, the Galaxy at StubHub Center, and the formidable Whitecaps. Amarikwa delivered two strong goals in a 5-2 loss to the Galaxy on July 17, and his sharp play could make a difference against Portland on Sunday.
While the high-profile international matches were generally considered positive for the club -- the Quakes' young players received valuable experience against top competition -- Kinnear had to juggle the roster while trying to preserve his regular starters for MLS action.
The Quakes’ lack of comfort with the artificial turf showed in the early going against Vancouver. They were a long ways from the pristine natural grass of Avaya Stadium.
"Vancouver is a good team, LA is a good team; the Western Conference is stacked pretty high,” Kinnear said. “We didn't start off the game particularly well and we were punished for it. We worked hard to get back into the game, but it was too little, too late.”