The light is fading and, if you listen closely, you can hear the fat lady warming up her voice. The San Jose Earthquakes lost “bigly” to Real Salt Lake by a 4-0 scoreline at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night to put themselves in a precarious playoff position. Godoy, the team’s linchpin, received two questionable yellow cards, and was ejected from the game at 61′, which put the Quakes down a man, so there is some (but very little) solace in the lopsided result.
The 4-0 scoreline could have been much worse. Goals by Luis Silva (29′), Jefferson Savarino (68′), Albert Rusnak (80′) and Yura Moysisnan (90+3′) could have included a disallowed goal by Joao Plata, and three shots that hit Tarbell’s right goal-post. By the end of the first half, RSL led in possession (59%-41%), shots (6-3), shots on goal (3-1), and goals (1-0). By the end of the game, RSL improve their first-half numbers by a wide margin: 63-47% lead in possession, 23-9 lead in shots, 9-1 lead in shots on goal, pass success (88%-74%), key passes (15-8), crosses (36-7; seriously??), corners (11-2), and the 4-0 scoreline. Amazingly in June, it was the Quakes that dominated the stats and the game, with RSL scoring a meaningless goal with a few seconds left to play to present a respectable scoreline; how the tides have changed for San Jose . . .
This latest Quakes route was due to multiple problems, both on the sideline and on the field. The lineup that was fielded by Chris Leitch was nearly identical to the lineup that took the field just a few days prior, with the exception of Quincy Amarikwa starting in place of Darwin Ceren. Playing the same players so late in the season created a lethargic team that struggled to maintain possession and string together passes as the Quakes never seriously threatened to score the entire match.
A second glaring error of judgment which led to the Quakes demise–and a terrible cycle that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon–is the lack of second-half adjustments. On the road, Chris Leitch has failed to make crucial adjustments to put his team in positions to win the game, which has led to road opponents putting up 16(!) goals in the second half of each of Leitch’s first five league road games. When asked about this prior to Wednesday’s match, Leitch reasoned that he would rather put his team in a position to win by taking risks, rather than lose quietly. However, when you look at the fact the Quakes managed zero second-half shots on goal, one has to question how Leitch is managing to allow so many goals while failing to generate any of his own. Quite simply, that is atrocious coaching.
Other errors include the carousel of players that seem to create Frankenstein lineups with little experience playing together, a lack of build-up play, a lack of finishing (the Quakes currently rank last in MLS with a 29.2% shot conversion ratio*), center-backs that need improvement (Imperiale, Affolter), and now for the first time, the players playing without heart.
No one in a Quakes uniform did anything of merit, save Danny Hoesen and Victor Bernardez. Hoesen, whom I’ve advocated as a starter for months now, managed four shots (none on frame) in his 17 minutes of game time. Victor Bernardez did everything he could defensively: five tackles, 11 clearances, and a blocked shot.
Vako, the team’s newest designated player, was terribadly awful. Zero shots, zero key passes, five turnovers on 22 touches, just 73% of 15 passes completed. Jesse Fioranelli himself could have put in a better performance than his million-dollar DP, and at a fraction of the cost.
Quincy Amarikwa, the three-goal scorer from last season, failed to impress upon his return to the starting XI. While Quincy was the only player to kick the ball towards the goal (by definition it was a shot, but I refuse to degrade the definition of “shot” with Quincy’s attempt), Quincy finished with two shots, three turnovers, and a 53% passing accuracy.
Kofi Sarkodie was a hole on the defensive side: one tackle, zero interceptions, two clearances, and zero accurate long-balls on four attempts. How Sarkodie finished with such low numbers while being 1/3 of the Quakes defensive line is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes.
There’s nowhere to go but up after this latest performance by San Jose, who will face the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday afternoon. If the team plays like they did on Wednesday, don’t expect the Quakes to impress at the StubHub Center against their California rivals.
*San Jose’s Latest Shot Conversion Rate:
|New York City FC||355||135||38.03%|
|New England Revolution||317||115||36.28%|
|New York Red Bulls||320||115||35.94%|
|Sporting Kansas City||356||124||34.83%|
|Orlando City SC||292||101||34.59%|
|Columbus Crew SC||320||110||34.38%|
|Real Salt Lake||420||141||33.57%|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||285||91||31.93%|
|Seattle Sounders FC||377||112||29.71%|
|San Jose Earthquakes||339||99||29.20%|