Like everyone else that's emotionally invested in the Quakes, I'm watching the Audi 2017 MLS playoffs and thinking "We could be here. We beat that team. We..." It's an exercise in the obviously incorrect (we lost in the knockout round, might I remind you), but it speaks to the fact that there was no weaning period for Quakes fans, no controlled detox. We went from the highest of highs after Minnesota, and then had it all ripped away just days later by Vancouver. So I'm here to look back at some of the moments from the season that you may have forgotten in the afterglow (or after burn) of the past few weeks. Let's go month by month.
The Open Cup run begins.
San Jose as a city has a U.S. Open Cup as a pelt on the wall, it just doesn't belong to the San Jose Earthquakes (the San Jose team would be the San Jose Oaks of 1992), but in 2017, San Jose had a good run that started with a 2-0 win over the NASL upstart SF Deltas, and then beat Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 a few weeks later to propel a run that would lead the team all the way to the semifinals. On a personal note, I love doing the Open Cup games because they are a departure from the norm on a number of levels, and I usually get to respond in real time to fans on twitter watching our web-stream. Another note, the match against the Sounders on the 28th of June also marked the coaching debut of Chris Leitch as the head coach of the Quakes.
End of an era.
June also marked the end of the road for San Jose and head coach Dominic Kinnear. Kinnear is someone I have a great deal of respect for, and like so many head coaches, found himself in the role of the incumbent, with a new boss coming in. It was a difference of ideologies over how the team should be managed, and once management decided he wouldn't be renewed, they felt it was time to make a change. That's professional sports. Dom will go down as a legendary figure in Bay Area and American soccer even if his return to San Jose didn't end the way he and we wanted it to.
There was a great deal of the unknown heading into the annual clash at Stanford Stadium between the Quakes and the Galaxy. Chris Wondolowski, when speaking to the media a day after the firing of Dom Kinnear was as visibly shaken in front the media as I have ever seen him, and cut his session short, overcome with emotion. But in the run up to the Clasico, the team had a nice distraction by way of a 2-1 win over Seattle in the US Open Cup, and that seemed to steady the ship. LA struck first with a goal from then captain Jelle Van Damme in the 11th minute, and held onto that lead as the clock ticked later and later into the match. Goalkeeper David Bingham went deep from the top of the 18 to find Wondo off the bounce a couple strides inside the right elbow of the LA area, Wondo switched his momentum and his feet, took his shot, caught the deflection and equalized the match 1-1 in the 75th minute. Eighteen minutes later, it was the 93rd-minute, a throw in made its way from Wondo to Hoesen, who played a soft touch into the path of a hard-charging Salinas off the right of the six, and he banked it in off the crossbar to make himself even more of a Clasico legend, and give San Jose a huge moment for their new head coach. The massive crowd in attendance also let loose with a roar among the loudest I have ever heard at any sporting event when Salinas scored the game winner.
Tommy tallies pt. 2, and an ID4 breakdown.
The Quakes were riding high heading into Atlanta and it didn't take long for them to take an early lead at Bobby Dodd Stadium (which, to be honest, was an absolutely amazing atmosphere) in the form of Tommy Thompson's first goal in Major League Soccer, taking a deflected pass from Chris Wondolowski, and scoring a screamer to put San Jose up 1-0 in the second minute. Atlanta stormed back to take a 2-1 lead with the help of an absurd second yellow and subsequent red for Kofi Sarkodie, but San Jose would equalize from, who else, Chris Wondolowski in the 66th minute, just one minute after falling behind. At 2-2, the Quakes, a man down, did their best to hold on for a point, but gave up a pair of strikes in the 81st and 89th minutes to fall 4-2.
The long and winding road.
July was when everyone really started realizing that the Quakes had a road problem. The 4-2 loss in Atlanta was followed by a 5-1 loss in Jersey to the Red Bulls, and that was punctuated by a 3-0 loss in Seattle just 4 days later. I can't remember a stretch like that in Earthquakes history, and if there's an equivalent, I've blocked it from my memory, but it was at this point that the Quakes road form went from sub-par to disastrous.
Ups and downs.
The month got started on the right foot, with the Quakes maintaining their awesome form at Avaya, beating Columbus 2-1 by way of goals from Marco Urena and Chris Wondolowski, but there was a distinct lack of consistency from the Quakes in the month of August. There was solid road form in KC in the Open Cup semifinal, a home draw against a beatable Union squad, a sooner-forgotten-the-better loss against RSL (more on that in a second), a road drubbing of the Galaxy. The Earthquakes were all over the map, but stayed in the hunt.
Ring that BELL.
Andrew Tarbell took over as the Earthquakes Goalkeeper in the latter stages of 2017 following strong performances in the U.S. Open Cup, but none were stronger than his showing in the semifinal, in which he recorded 11 saves, putting on an absolute show. Tarbell is at his best when he is reacting, and that's not a knock on him, it's just a testament to his reflexes and instinctual vision in front of the net. He was tested countless times in situations he honestly should have conceded goals in, but didn't, and kept the Quakes in the match versus Sporting Kansas City when it could've been a more lopsided showing. The Quakes lost on penalty kicks, but Tarbell had made his case, and became the starting GK for San Jose.
The Earthquakes suffered some bad losses on the road this year, but there was something about the loss at Rio Tinto this year that was especially deflating. The team was flat, looked over-matched, and lacked any spark you would have hoped the team would have following another rough road loss against Houston sandwiched in there. It was one of the rare moments of the season where I wondered if the Earthquakes were a playoff team, which is what I felt they were all year long, but after that game, after a loss like that, to a team that was on the rise in the west, my belief wavered.