The last three matches...
"Apocalypse at Avaya."
A 2-0 lead at halftime. This line at the half should fill anyone with confidence, and it did for me. When the whistle sounded at the end of the first 45 against Vancouver, I immediately thought it was the best first 45 minutes of the season for the Quakes, without a doubt. Everything looked clean, precise, and according to plan. They caught some breaks (a rarity this season), scored some goals, and were sitting pretty at the break. Still, as I heard the whistle to start the second half, a twinge of fear entered my head "crap, are we going to lose this game?" And that's just the type of season is has been, gut punches followed by shots to the groin. It hasn't been pretty, and what happened to the Quakes in the second half against Vancouver was, most certainly, not pretty. Three goals conceded in a span of 9 minutes. There has been debate about what had been the "low point" of the season, and for me, this was it. A 2-0 lead at home, held into the second half, and the end results was a loss. Unfathomable, but the reality at the end of the day. It was a stunning collapse, and more than the shock of losses against LAFC, or Portland, this loss seemed to have a gravity about it, palpable in the stadium. sIt wasn't just displeasure from the fans or the added weight of another loss, this was a "dizzy from rationalization attempts" type loss where you keep trying to find some sense about what just occurred, mental gymnastics redlining, but there was nothing there. There was no sense to it, nothing to rationalize, just a very stark reminder that the season still had two months left to go, and the team was still a very far distance from the answers they were looking for. As rough of a loss as there has been all year.
The Dallas Shootout
Yes, I know defense wins championships, but 7 goals in a game make play by play broadcasters happy (it is all about me, obviously), and this was a really fun game to watch. At this point in the year, all you can really hope for is entertainment, and coming off of the crushing loss to Vancouver, the Quakes found themselves in an early hole against Dallas, down a goal in the first ten minutes. The visible frustration was there, ghosts of the Saturday night loss to Vancouver were suddenly quite present, and you could feel the tension, and bile rising collectively throughout Avaya Stadium. But a funny thing, happened, the San Jose responded, quite quickly, in a big big way. Say what you will about Vako's resistance (sometimes) to passing, but he makes things happen on the dribble, and that's exactly what he did twice, giving San Jose a 2-1 lead heading into the half. Of course, this game was far from over, with Dallas equalizing in the 51st minute. The back and forth was on. It was then Magnus that launched a rocket off his left foot to give the Quakes a 3-2 lead. That was of course, equalized. And then who else but Chris Wondolowski would bag the game winner, as the Earthquakes held on for 4-3 win. It was a great reminder of many things:
1) How the breaks have mostly not gone in our favor this year (yes, if you're good enough you eliminate the need, but that's not the point, nor the reality).
2). How much fight this team has left, just days after the worst loss of the season, and worst loss in the history of Avaya Stadium.
3). How much potency this team has on offense. It's been an inconsistent season on offense, and even still, the team has scored their most goals since 2012.
Another Vancouver Loss
For the fourth time in the last 12 months the San Jose Earthquakes were in Vancouver for a match. And for the fourth time, they walked away without a win.
Two draws (Oct 2017, May 2018)
Two losses (Oct 2017, August 2018)
While not equal to the 5-0 drubbing that knocked the Earthquakes out of the 2017 playoffs, this was a tough loss as well. You hoped for some revenge following the meltdown the previous Saturday, but the team just didn't have enough in the tank palying their third game in a week's time. It was evident from kickoff that the squad was flat. The effort was there, the legs were not.
And now Sporting Kansas City...
This is a very talented squad, regardless of players returning at full strength or not from international play. This also kicks off a stretch of very good teams San Jose will see down the stretch:
Atlanta United FC
All of these teams are above the red line in their respective conferences, and will be huge tests for the Quakes, but ultimately, these are the teams that the Quakes need to be judged against: playoff teams. Identify the deficiencies when faced with superior opponents, and figure out how to be better than what the current playoff teams have. It sounds so simple, but it so obviously is not.