The Earthquakes lost 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at BBVA Compass Field. The loss is the sixth straight contest in which the Quakes have failed to earn three points, dropping the team to sixth in the Western Conference with nine total points.
The game marked a few firsts. It was Houston’s first clean-sheet performance of the season. It was also the first time the Quakes were held to single-digit points after their first eight games since Head Coach Dom Kinnear’s return to San Jose. In 2015 and 2016, the team earned 10 points and 14 points respectively.
The Quakes never managed to find their footing against a Houston team which appears to be on the rise. Fatai Alashe’s reckless challenge to Dynamo midfielder Alex in the box gave Houston a PK at 9′, which was converted by Cubo Torres (his third PK goal this season). Houston’s second goal came courtesy of Alberth Elis, who beat Fatai Alashe on a corner into a wide open net at 77′. Bingham missed the punch, allowing the ball to find Elis for the two-goal lead.
Houston also had several opportunities that could have made the result much more lopsided. At 55′, Elis missed an open far-post header off a cross from Alex. At 86′, a second Houston corner was poorly cleared by Flo Jungwirth (who appeared to be shoved from behind by Adolfo Machado) to Juan Cabezas, whose shot hit the crossbar.
The Quakes had few chances. In 31′, Marco Urena dribbled to the top of the box, but his poorly paced shot went straight to Houston’s net-minder Joe Willis. At 66′, Danny Hoesen (who subbed in for Urena at 64′) managed to get behind his mark and put a low-percentage attempt on Willis, who closed down the distance. If Hoesen passes behind him to Wondo or Hyka, the Quakes may have scored. At 83′, Hoesen managed a through ball to Wondo, who might have been out of range to make an attempt on frame. None of these chances seriously threatened the Houston defense.
The biggest error for the Quakes was not any one player’s performance, but the team’s predictability. Head Coach Dom Kinnear simply does not want to change his flat 4-4-2 formation, which is now a proven failure. As such, teams are perfectly coached to handle a San Jose attack which relies on crosses from the wings rather than a central attacking midfielder. It’s no mistake that each of the teams that have beaten the Quakes (Sporting KC, New York City, and Houston) all used a 4-3-3 to prevent any passing lanes which move the ball forward centrally. Cumulatively, the Quakes have been out-shot 38-23 against these 4-3-3 teams.
The only other times the Quakes have started a season with single-digit points in their first eight games after their 2012 Supporter’s Shield run were in 2013 and 2014. Both head coaches Frank Yallop and Mark Watson were fired. If Dom Kinnear doesn’t start changing the results, which begins with changing his formula for winning, he will probably meet the same ending.