Playoffs out of reach, but drama not over


Playoffs out of reach, but drama not over

SANTA CLARA -- The Earthquakes didnt even take the field on Tuesday night, yet found themselves quietly eliminated on a night when the American soccer world was focused on events well outside the Bay Area. In New York, the Red Bulls hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy and duly won 2-0, a result that opened an insurmountable gap between the Earthquakes and the playoff spots. The Earthquakes currently have 32 points, with Houston and New York sitting in the last two playoff berths with 43 points each. With three games remaining, even the maximum nine points would put them at 41 points, just shy of the playoffs. We have no one to blame but ourselves, Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski told We were put in that position and anytime you need help its never a good situation, so were definitely frustrated about that, but thats not going to change our outlook on these last three games.

Despite their elimination from the playoff race, the Earthquakes will have plenty to focus on as the season draws to a close. Head coach Frank Yallop highlighted that he is not expecting anything different from his players and that he expects the team to build on the positive play it has shown in starts and fits over the past couple months. We have to make sure we are trying to the right things and making sure that we have a good end to the season, Yallop said to Again, weve played pretty well the last few months, couple of months, and I think that needs to continue in the next three games. In addition to finishing the season strong and playing well, there is another, more tangible story surrounding the Earthquakes: Wondolowskis pursuit of a second consecutive Golden Boot, awarded to the top scorer in MLS. The Danville native is currently tied with two other players for second place in scoring charts, with 12 goals to his name. D.C. United attacker and ex-Earthquake Dwayne De Rosario and New Yorks Thierry Henry are currently tied for the lead with 14 goals apiece. However, Wondolowski downplayed the importance of his chase for the scoring title. Its just one of those things that when you start thinking about it, you wont score, so you just have to go out there and play hard and hope that you can create some opportunities and finish them, so thats the plan, he said. Wondolowski has thrived most in front of goal when given good service by his teammates, but insisted that regardless of what the players around him are doing, the onus was on him to get the ball in the back of the net. You just have to let it come, try and play as good soccer as you can and chances will come and its on me to finish them, he added. For his part Yallop maintained that Wondolowski would continue to start, but not simply because of his quest for another scoring title. Wondos earned his right to play, so hell play, probably all the games running until the end of the season, Yallop said. It would be nice if he could get the Golden Boot again. Its better when you win it in a winning season and you go into the playoffs with that tally, but hes done well. While Yallop indicated last week that he would likely stick close to the lineups he has fielded in the past month or two, on Wednesday he indicated the possibility of starts ahead for some of the teams younger players as well as some of those who are recovering from injury. Theres not a ton of players available, but well see, Yallop said, referring to his teams struggle with injury throughout the season. I might give some young guys a start here and there, but well see. When prompted about the situations of some of his injured players, Yallop highlighted two players in particular. Forward Alan Gordon was acquired from Toronto FC in July, but only managed to feature in two matches before undergoing surgery to repair torn muscles. Promising defender Ike Opara, meanwhile, has missed the better pat of two seasons through injury, including a large chunk 2011 because of a foot injury. Alans got a chance, but Ikes one that were not too sure on right now he said. We wont risk them though only if theyre 100 well play them. While their absence from the playoff chase could diminish the thrill of the final games of the season for many, there is still plenty to see from the Earthquakes, whether its Wondolowskis charge for a second scoring title or simply an indication of what the team will do to avoid a similar situation in 2012.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

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.

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Carl Robinson was talking about the need to rely on key veterans in a playoff game.

And then the Vancouver coach all but confirmed that he will replace two long-time standouts on Wednesday in the Whitecaps' Major League Soccer knockout-round playoff game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

One -- left fullback Jordan Harvey, the longest-serving Whitecap -- definitely will not start. Instead, Marcel de Jong, who has been deployed mainly as a utility player on the back line and in midfield, will get the call.

"Marcel has played very well for the last three games he's played, and so has Jordan, but for this matchup, Marcel will play," Robinson said after a practice Tuesday at the club's University of British Columbia training facility.

Harvey, a 33-year-old Mission Viejo, Calif., native, has rarely taken a night off since joining the Whitecaps in a trade from Philadelphia in Vancouver's inaugural MLS season in 2011.

De Jong, a 31-year-old Newmarket, Ontario, native who plays internationally for Canada, got into only 13 games during the regular season and just seven in 2016 after joining the club in midseason from Ottawa of the second-tier North American Soccer League.

Meanwhile, Stefan Marinovic, a 24-year-old New Zealand international, is expected to start in goal as David Ousted, a 31-year-old Dane who has been the team's heavily used starter since his arrival in mid-2013, watches for the fourth time in the past five games.

Marinovic has a modest 2-2-1 record with one shutout.

"It's no gamble at all," Robinson said of changing goalies. "Stef's a top-class goalkeeper. We know that.

"I'm a very lucky manager in this league in that I've got two very good goalkeepers. Stef's come in and, in the games he's played, he's been exceptional. I need him to make saves at big times. (Ousted) has done that throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Stef has now taken charge."

The Wednesday contest marks the time for the Whitecaps to take charge of their postseason fortunes after they squandered a chance to finish first in the Western Conference and dropped to third thanks to a draw with the Earthquakes two weeks ago and a loss to the Portland Timbers last weekend.

Vancouver (15-12-7) has never won a playoff game in its MLS existence.

The winner of Wednesday's contest will play a two-game, total-goals series against either first-place Portland or the second-place Seattle Sounders.

The Earthquakes, who grabbed the sixth and final playoff berth in the West with a 13-14-7 mark, are clear underdogs. However, Vancouver captain Kendall Waston downplayed the apparent pressure on his team, which was a modest 1-3-1 in its last five regular-season games.

"Pressure, for me, is (not having) money to go buy milk for my son," Waston said. "This is trying to be (as) responsible as we can. We have to look at this match as the others, but the thing is, if we lose, we have to go home -- and we (don't) want to go home."

Vancouver's top scorer, Fredy Montero, said he is ready to play a full game after being used as a substitute in Portland due to a minor injury.

Meanwhile, the Earthquakes will try to continue to rebound from a 6-6-5 start that cost former coach Dominic Kinnear his job. Replacement Chris Leitch saw the team endure some fits and starts, but the Earthquakes managed to get into the playoffs after Marco Urena, a teammate of Waston on Costa Rica's national team, scored the last-minute winner over Minnesota United last weekend.

"I always shine in these important moments," Urena said afterward. "God chose me (for such times.)"

The Earthquakes might need some divine intervention after allowing 21 more goals than they scored during the regular season. Even so, they have one of the all-time best MLS players in Chris Wondolowski, who assisted on the winner and also scored last weekend, earning MLS player of the week honors.

"Legitimately one of the hardest things I had to do in my life," Wondolowski, who loves to shoot, said about passing on the winning goal.

Wondolowski, who is tied for second on the MLS all-time scoring list with Jeff Cunningham at 134 goals, said it has been a "look-in-the mirror-and-see-what-you're-made-of season," for the Quakes, who made several midseason roster changes.