Montreal is an example of how quickly things can change in Major League Soccer. Just six weeks ago, Montreal was at the bottom of the East with a record of 3-10-0. Now they sit at 8-12-0 and are in 6th place in the East, above the red line still, after Wednesday night's loss to NYCFC at Yankee stadium. Of course, this aligned with a collapse in Orlando, the fact that Toronto have done nothing but continually disappoint, and 8th place up to 4th place is separated by a mere seven points. Right now in the West, the difference between 8th and 4th is a small four points. The problem is that the Earthquakes are 13 points back of 8th place LA Galaxy, and 14 points back of Whitecaps FC for 6th in the West. Still, crazier things have happened, and crazy things are still capable of happening for this Earthquakes squad, no matter how bleak it looks right now.
The United State of Amarikwa
Quincy Amarikwa is one of those players that will probably never get the wide-ranging credit he deserves. His insertion into any match is disruptive, plain and simple, and he makes things happen. Joe Cannon, a guy that would know, says that teams need to constantly be "asking questions" of the opposition's backline and goal keeper. This is exactly what Quincy does. He knows how to fight for balls, create and control a possession, and put a ball into a dangerous space, as he did for Florian Jungwirth this past Saturday against Portland. Now, you can say "Attinella should've made the save," and you might be right, but you never know if a save can be botched unless you put the ball in play. Quincy gave Jungwirth the opportunity to find out in that specific moment if he could stop the shot. Attinella couldn't, and didn't. Suddenly, the Quakes were right back into the match with a shot to tie at the finish. They fell short, but it was yet another reminder of Amarikwa's ability to shake up a game. Every time Quincy comes in, the match dynamic changes. He's more physical, more fearless, more aware of his surroundings than his defenders often give him credit for, and it equals opportunity.
16 Matches Left, 9 At Home
If there is any salvaging of the season left to be had, it has to start Saturday in Montreal. I've seen this type of a turnaround happen before, and if the Quakes can do it. They also won't be the last team to do it. But as it gets later and later into the season, it becomes that much harder to see it happening. And it's not for a lack of effort, far from it. I've seen some gutsy performances this year that simply haven't been rewarded. I don't believe in luck in sports, and that's why you practice. When you enter into the field of competition, you knowingly enter an unlimited amount of variables. Practice has been done to give you as much control of those variables as possible. If a three year old throws a ball into a hoop, it's luck. If a professional soccer player bangs one off the post and it goes in, that's not luck, that's professionalism on display. They've taken that shot thousands of times in practice, and got it to break their way on that specific day. That's not "chance," that's a direct result of thousands of individual actions known as practice. Sometimes things will break your way, and sometimes they won't. You go back to the Clasico, and Wondo banged one off the post that denied the Quakes a big win, and Wondo a hat-trick. Was it "bad luck" that happened? No, it was an impossible angle that only Wondolowski and no one could even pretend to put on from. However, he has a practiced skill, and as a result has scored the second most goals (and counting) in league history. That which was out of his control didn't stop the shot. A post did. It was incredible that he could even get it that close in the first place. He missed, it happens. The greater point, though, is that it feels like despite the many admirable efforts from the Quakes this year, they haven't been rewarded. Last year, they were. Later equalizers and game winners against Dallas from Hyka. Wondo with equalizers against Orlando and Seattle. Big wins in Minnesota, Dallas, and LA. A big late win at home against the Galaxy. Late heroics in 2017 were part of the San Jose narrative. In 2018, it's been the exact opposite.