Earthquakes, Union play to scoreless draw


Earthquakes, Union play to scoreless draw



SANTA CLARA, Calif. After a disappointing midweek outing in Los Angeles, theEarthquakes returned to Buck Shaw Stadium, only to find more frustrationwaiting for them in the form of the Philadelphia Union. For the fourth time infive games, the opposition defense held the Earthquakes scoreless, and whilethe Quakes did the same to a dangerous Union team, they were frustrated withtheir efforts going forward. I thought it was a lot better performance than Chivas. Ithought at times we played OK, but then we couldnt sustain it, said headcoach Frank Yallop, after the game. I think were just kind of misfiring alittle bit, not just in front of goal, because were not really getting to thefront of goal that much. The most telling stat of the evening was plain to see on thestats sheet the Earthquakes only managed one shot on goal, while the Union managed to test Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch six times,taking more than twice the number of shots the Earthquakes did.The Earthquakes found themselves continually frustrated inpossession by the Union, who defended deep andused their forwards to constantly hound the Earthquakes defenders, forcing theminto a number of miscues. After similar frustrations against the Los AngelesGalaxy and Chivas USAin previous games, Yallop admitted that it was an area of trouble for the team.We tend to struggle against teams that defend deep, hesaid. It seems that weve not quite figured how to play as a unit to play anyteam thats down, or if they sit back. In large part because of that deep defensive line, anotherglaring stat was to be found in Chris Wondolowskis zero shots. In the 11 gamesprior to his departure for U.S.national team duty, he regularly tested opposition defenses, averaging overthree shots per game. In the three games he has played since, he has managedjust one shot per game. Yallop attributed those struggles in part to the teamsplay, referring to Wondolowski as not a creator of shots, but a finisher ofchances. Wondolowski, however, acknowledged that it is a part of hisgame he needs to work on. Myself, I need to do a better job of finding space, I haventbeen doing that, I need to work harder out there, he said. I need to fight andif I battle and scrap for some of those second balls then that opens up andcreates some more space. The Earthquakes did find themselves without a vital tool totheir creation of chances, as striker Steven Lenhart missed out throughsuspension for an accumulation of yellow cards. Lenharts ability to battlewith defenders and lay off balls to players like Wondolowski and Simon Dawkinshas proved vital to creating dangerous opportunities throughout much of theseason, and his play was noticeably absent in the final third. I feel that anytime youre without Lenny its a huge blow,youre missing a big part of this team, Wondolowski said, noting that itwasnt just his play that made Lenhart a valuable asset. We for sure missedhim, his battling, his attitude, its just contagious, and you want to go outthere and you want to fight and battle even harder. Though the Earthquakes did miss a vital cog in their attackon Saturday evening, fans also got to see a new face going forward in the shapeof Mexican midfielder Rafael Baca. Baca, a Mexican-born creative midfielder whoplayed his college soccer at Loyola Marymount, finally signed with theEarthquakes after spending the season training with the team, waiting for hispaperwork to go through to allow him to officially sign. Hopefully I can provide more of an attack and some goals. Iwork hard at practice to get in sync with these guys, Baca said. While I wasout there, I got a feel for the player on top and saw that they wanted toscore. If the Earthquakes are to jump-start their sputteringoffense, Baca could indeed provide that little extra something, but for themeantime, its about looking ahead. Its easy criticizing after, I never do that, Yallop said.I work on the next game and Im not worried about us not scoring, Im justgoing to work on trying to get a win the next game.For more Earthquakes, MLS and general soccermusings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter @nicholasrosano

Earthquakes secure spot in playoffs with clutch goal in stoppage time

Earthquakes secure spot in playoffs with clutch goal in stoppage time


SAN JOSE — Marco Urena scored in the third minute of stoppage time and the San Jose Earthquakes secured a playoff spot with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on Sunday in their regular-season finale.

San Jose (13-14-7) needed a win for the final spot in the Western Conference after FC Dallas' 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. It's an unexpected run for the Earthquakes, who fired coach Dominic Kinnear midway through the season.

In the build-up to the winner, San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell sent a long ball that was chested by Victor Bernardez and headed to Quincy Amarikwa inside the 18-yard box. Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth pushed Amarikwa's shot wide but San Jose star Chris Wondolowski chased it down for a feed to an open Urena in front of goal.

The Earthquakes have won seven of their last nine home games — with every win coming by one goal.

Wondolowski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in the 55th with an easy redirection of Danny Hoesen cross at the back post.

Minnesota (10-18-6), which has lost nine of its last 12 road games, tied it at 2 in the 81st on Francisco Calvo's header off the crossbar.

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention


Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.

After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.

Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.

One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.

The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.

Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.

All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.

Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.

Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.