The Earthquakes marched into RFK with playoff aspirations, and walked out with yet another dismal road performance, this time at the hands of last-place-in-the-East D.C. United.
For the seventh game in eight away matches since Leitch’s take-over, the Quakes have allowed three or more goals in the second half. Patrick Mullins, who (thanks Nerdy Gales!) was passed over by the Quakes in favor of the now-retired J.J. Koval in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, discombobulated the Quakes defense by putting up four second-half goals and a perfect hat-trick: left foot, right foot, and a header. The fact that three of his four goals came inside the six-yard box puts the blame squarely at the feet of the Quakes’ center-backs Andres Imperiale and Francois Affolter, who continually failed to mark the lone DCU forward.
Andres Imperiale deserves a special shout-out for futility. The starting center-back had one tackle, one interception, one clearance, won just one aerial, and received a yellow card, not counting the three goals Mullins was able to score on him. (Two months ago, I highlighted how Jekyll-and-Hyde Imperiale has been, apparently it’s getting worse!) Quite simply, the defense has been awful, and Imperiale has been one of the most awful components.
Leitch’s Poor Decisions
Head Coach Chris Leitch made three very poor decisions. The first was hoping lightning would strike twice by fielding the same lineup that delivered San Jose a win versus Houston last week. Despite the fact that the Quakes won 1-0, the lineup was anything but effective. Both teams managed 15 shots, roughly the same amount of shots on goal (5-4 in favor of San Jose), and equal possession (51%-49% in favor of San Jose). There were more than a few times that Houston could have tied the game, but luck was not on their side and the Quakes were the beneficiaries. It was an even match against a poor road team.
Yet the lesson was not learned as the Quakes put out the same lineup despite having a rested and healthy Anibal Godoy ready to play. Imperiale and Affolter took Flo’s center-back position despite Flo being a much better/faster center-back than Imperiale and Affolter (inconsistencies that were highlighted in the prematch). With Flo moved up to defensive mid, Godoy was benched. Jackson Yueill, who had an average performance last week yet impressed some pundits, put in a rookie performance: zero key passes, zero crosses, two shots off target. A poor lineup which relied on terrible center-backs and Godoy on the bench put the Quakes in an uphill battle.
The second bad decision was Leitch’s choice of subs. The first was subbing off forward Marco Urena and midfielder Flo Jungwirth for Tommy Thompson and Anibal Godoy. Subbing a #9 forward for a midfielder when you’re down tow goals is always a questionable call, and Tommy’s inaccuracy didn’t help San Jose: two shots with little chance of converting. While Godoy should have always been starting, neither Flo nor Urena were the problem for San Jose. Andres Imperiale should have been given the boot with Flo moved back to try and contain Mullins in favor of Godoy. Instead, Leitch kept the same inept center-back pair, and a third goal inside the box was scored minutes later to put the game well out of reach.
Hyka’s sub in the 80th minute for Vako was inexcusable. Vako was leading the Quakes’ attack with two shots, one on goal, one key pass, and a 90% passing accuracy rating on 54 touches. Hyka finished with just five touches and two successful passes.
The third bad choice (and it pains me to say it) was not subbing out Wondo. With Chris so close to the all-time MLS scoring record, it’s practically sacrilege to bench him. But head coaches have to make those tough decisions, and apparently Chris Wondolowski’s quest for the all-time MLS scoring record is more important than winning, at least for Leitch. Wondo finished with just one shot off target, and 37 touches. If anyone probably should have been subbed out, it’s Wondo.
Disturbing Second Half Road Stats
Not counting the L.A. match (in which the Galaxy have managed just two home wins all season), the second-half road trend since Leitch’s takeover is astonishing.
|2nd Half Goals Conceded||Total Second Half Shots on Target||Total Shot Differential||2nd Half Possession|
The argument could be made, and in fact was made by Leitch himself, that he is trying to put his team in a better position to win by taking more chances with his offense pushing higher, and thus leaving his defense more vulnerable to the attack. But this is far from the case as the Quakes’ offense has not only failed to produce any chances that would warrant such lopsided results, but failed to produce any attack at all. In only one game have the Quakes managed to win more than half the second-half possession (in Houston).
Also, it should be noted that as Wondo does, so do the Quakes. Prior to Saturday’s match, in seven road games, Wondo had just four shots on target, one of which was a PK and the other a tap-in goal in Los Angeles at the end of the match. Wondo has not shown up for road games, and his team has been slaughtered in seven of eight road matches.
In the end, the Quakes played a solid first-half, but once the clock struck 45 minutes, the fairy-tale ended and team wilted. Thankfully the Quakes have just one more road game to finish the season, an away match at Vancouver.
Amazingly, despite San Jose’s continued road futility, FC Dallas is even worse. Dallas is winless in their last 10 games, which has allowed the Quakes to stay above the red-line in sixth place with 39 points. However, as of Monday, San Jose has just a 30% chance of making the playoffs.
San Jose will try to hold serve at home versus a difficult Chicago Fire squad that is in a heated Eastern conference playoff race on Wednesday night.