Earthquakes look to perfect the winning formula


Earthquakes look to perfect the winning formula

SAN JOSE Despite a series of injuries and suspensions, the Earthquakes finally found the winning formula last Saturday, beating the visiting Chicago Fire 2-0 to snap a franchise-record 13 game winless streak. While the team presses on, beset by absences and its playoff hopes dangling by a thread, the win provided a modicum of hope and an indication of what fans might see as the Earthquakes attempt to claw their way into a playoff berth. With Justin Morrow and Bobby Convey missing Saturdays win through injury and suspension, respectively, Sam Cronin and Simon Dawkins came in to cover, while Khari Stephenson continued to play in a forward role. Even with players returning to fitness, though, the replacements play against Chicago could be one indication that they are likely to continue seeing playing time. Dawkins was active on the left wing, passing accurately (40 out of 46 passes completed, or 87 accuracy) and demonstrating his ability to both beat a man and play an intelligent pass. Stephenson, playing forward alongside Chris Wondolowksi, was active outside the penalty area, and contributed on the buildup to Ramiro Corrales goal against Chicago. Both players were playing out of their natural positions, as they are both nominally central midfielders. Head coach frank Yallop praised the versatility of his players, highlighting that quality as one that has helped lift the team in recent weeks. I think any good player can play in any position. I wouldnt put them in a position if I didnt feel as a coach they could handle both spots, Yallop said. So I decided to put them both in those spots and its worked out great, I think both of them have played very well. Also benefiting from the shift in play is Wondolowski himself, who has now gathered two goals and an assist in his last two games to catapult himself right back into the race for the MLS Golden Boot. Wondolowski was the recipient of a cross from Rafael Baca, also recent addition to the lineup, for his first goal and indicated he was happy with the service he has been given. I think its been alright, I think the thing is we have a really deep team, Wondolowski said. I thought Kharis been playing really well up there. I think whoever steps in, Rafa Baca or Sam Cronin have been playing well up there, so its nice and its a good luxury to have and I think we need to keep building on that. Wondolowski also highlighted the role of understanding and communication among the forward line. He further highlighted that part of the teams deeper understanding simply came from playing together the length of the season. Its just one of those things, kind of all coming together, he explained. Its been seven months since weve been since preseason, so we know each other really well now and know the ins and outs, and we practice hard and work together on that front, so we feel that we can understand each other and go from there. Looking ahead to Saturdays trip to Houston, Bobby Convey, a natural left winger, will be available after serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. However, with Dawkins playing a positive role on the win over Chicago and syncing well with the rest of the team, Yallop could be set to start the Englishman once more. I think he Dawkins has the ability to dribble guys and get shots off and crosses off, so thats a different look, said Yallop, comparing Dawkins traits to Conveys. Bobbys a good possession player, whips early crosses, does come infield a little bit. Theyre both good players, Simon at the moment is doing well. There will, however, be one forced change to the lineup as Nana Attakora will replace Jason Hernandez (quadriceps strain) in the center of defense. However, Yallop indicated he has full faith in the 22-year-old Ontario-born center back. He looks better in training, he looks more assured, so hopefully he can now put that into practice and play a good game, Yallop said of his countryman. While Houston will certainly test the Earthquakes, the teams ability to adapt to continuous absences and to remain in sync in spite of those absences will be the key to any remaining playoff hopes.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

NASL-champion San Francisco Deltas fold after one season


NASL-champion San Francisco Deltas fold after one season

The dream is no more. 

San Francisco Deltas' CEO Brian Andres Helmick ended speculation on Friday when he released a statement announcing the end of the team after one season in the North American Soccer League -- a DII professional league in the USSF pyramid. 

The Deltas are fresh off claming the NASL's championship in front of a sold-out crowd at Kezar Stadium, But even that wasn't enough to save a franchise who admittedly was struggling to stay afloat. 

"We are closing down the San Francisco Deltas," Helmick wrote. "As many of you have said, this journey that started in 2015 has the makings of a movie with character-defining struggles, heroic moments, painful defeats, and overcoming seemingly impossible hurdles all culminating in a dream come true on Sunday, November 12th when the SF Deltas were crowned the national champions after defeating the New York Cosmos — arguably the most storied brand in U.S. Soccer history. I’ll never forget the scene of thousands of fans storming the field. Now that the celebration has come to an end, players and coaches have been released from their contracts. We will not leave any loose ends and everybody will be paid what they’re owed for 2017 — including players, coaches, staff, partners and vendors."

In 32 league games, the Deltas amassed a 14-12-6 record and advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament where they lost to the San Jose Earthquakes. 

"In hindsight we have not been perfect," Helmick said. "Far from it. We have learned so much from this adventure and we will begin organizing our thoughts and learnings that led to us to make this decision. Our hope is to share them for the benefit of others who are interested in developing the sport here in San Francisco or in other cities. I firmly believe that via transparency and collaboration we can improve the sport we all love."

In response to the Deltas news, the NASL released the following statement: 'In San Francisco, it’s unfortunate that the Deltas’ business plans did not materialize in the way they had hoped. We remain a big believer in the market, as evidenced by the atmosphere and crowd at The Championship Final earlier this month, and we still believe that the city deserves a professional soccer team. We are in active discussions with potential ownership groups and we aim to keep professional soccer in San Francisco in the future."

The Deltas experiment is the latest to test the viability of professional soccer in San Francisco. Last Fall, another group fronted by founder NIck Swimurn -- San Francisco Football Club -- attempted to start a team using AT&T Park as its home stadium as part of the United Soccer League. The project and application was pulled. 

Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs


Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs


The San Jose Earthquakes' season is over, after the Vancouver Whitecaps beat San Jose 5-0 in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night. 

Fredy Montero opened the scoring for the Whitecaps in the 33rd minute. In the second half, Cristian Tecera and Kendall Watson scored seven minutes apart and all but sealed the hosts' first-ever playoff win. Second half substitute Nicolas Mezquida scored a brace for good measure, with two goals in 78th and 80th minute. 

Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski was held off of the scoresheet for his fourth consecutive playoff game. The 34-year-old scored one goal in six career postseason appearances. 

Tuesday marked San Jose's first postseason appearance since 2012. The Earthquakes have not advanced past the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2010.