Earthquakes

Quakes play to 1-1 draw in Colorado

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Quakes play to 1-1 draw in Colorado

MATCH STATS

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. Its become all too familiar for the Earthquakes. For the seventh time in 12games this season, they took the lead, only to drop points at the final whistle. In a rematch ofthe 2010 Eastern Conference final against defending champion Colorado Rapids,the Earthquakes took a first half lead through Chris Wondolowski, only torelinquish it in the second half, leading to a second consecutive 1-1 draw. I think that the result was probably fair in the end but Ifelt for a good 55, 60 minutes that we shouldve scored more than one goal, soIm kind of disappointed we didnt, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop saidto reporters after the game. Despite more positive play and a series of chances to scoremore than one goal, the Earthquakes could not find a way to beat Colorado goalkeeper MattPickens again after he spilled a rebound off a dipping shot from KhariStephenson in the 18th minute, allowing Wondolowski an easy finish.Khari has a great shot and he was able to find a littlespace and hit it on frame, Wondolowski said of his strike. To be honest itcame out pretty hot, it was a pretty good rebound, but Ill take those anyday. The goal was Wondolowskis 32nd for theEarthquakes, tying him for second with Landon Donovan for second on thefranchises all-time scoring list.Its right now a little bittersweet, Wondolowski said, ofhis record. Its a true honor, Donovan is a great player and I know how muchit means to the fans and the club and I appreciate it, but I really wish Icouldve gotten another one or taken that win.On the defensive end, the Earthquakes played well in the runof play, catching the Rapids offside eight times while not conceding a corneruntil the 69th minute of the game. By playing a high defensive lineand having full backs with speed, the Earthquakes were largely able to containthe threats of fast players like Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi. We try to make sure were compact and we hold a high linebecause we dont want to get the game stretched, especially against teams like Colorado, Yallop saidof his teams defensive showing. I thought we did a nice job of holding ahigh-ish line, but making sure we broke back to cover them. While one of Coloradosstrengths has been quickness down the wings and up top, the speed of San Jose full backs StevenBeitashour and Justin Morrow did help the team match its opponent for speed. Theyre fast players, so you always have to be on your toesand ready to face your own goal and start a foot race, and get back, so itsnot easy, Beitashour said. Despite not conceding a corner until midway through thesecond half, the series of corners following Colorados first of the game provided thehome team with their way back. After Jon Busch made two impressive stops tokeep the Rapids out, he could do nothing to prevent Drew Moor from cleaningthings up to tie the game in the 71st minute. If it had been 2-0 I think it would have been a lot harderfor Colorado to get back in the game, but you know, give credit to them, theygot their goal and then had some chances at the end, Yallop added. But Istill think that the game all hinged on our inability to score the secondgoal. Wondolowski had an excellent chance to extend theEarthquakes lead on 36 minutes when he found himself alone in front of Pickensafter a chipped pass from Simon Dawkins. However, Pickens was quick off hisline and turned Wondolowskis effort out for a corner. In the second half, theteams best chance when Stephenson took a coat of paint off the far post with alow shot, only to see it go out for a goal kick.While Yallop and his players highlighted the teamsinability to get a second goal as a key factor in the teams struggles to holda lead, Yallop also pointed to other, more circumstantial factors in Saturdayevenings game. I think we ran out of gas in the end, at altitude and withthe third game in a week with the same unit, Yallop added. Perhaps even more frustrating than the Earthquakes beingunable to hold a lead this season not a typical phenomenon for a FrankYallop-coached team is the fact that the team has largely improved itsperformances over the past month or two with little to show for it. Weve moved the ball real well in the last seven, eightnine games really well, Yallop said. I think we played terrific in Portland on Wednesdaynight and very unlucky not get more than a point out of that one. Kind of thesame story tonight. Following two straight draws during the week, theEarthquakes now have 31 points, eight points out of a playoff spot at the timeof writing. With four games left and five teams standing in the way of the 10thand final spot, the teams playoff chances are alive only by the slimmest ofmargins, and face elimination when it hosts Sporting Kansas City on Oct.1.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

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A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

This week, the San Jose Earthquakes announced they would not be bringing back Victor Bernardez next year. 

For most people, this news barely registered on their radar, if at all.  For me, it is the end of the line for one of my favorite players, on my favorite team.

Who was Victor Bernardez?  He was an attacking central defender for the Quakes.  When he played, he constantly made you wonder if he was being overly aggressive, or out of control.  My heart would skip a beat when he would dive in on a tackle, and more often than not, he would come away having made an amazing play.

The first thing that stands out physically about Victor is his strength.  He’s like a bull or an angry rhinoceros -- he played fearlessly and with passion.  I constantly underestimated his offensive abilities.  I can’t count how many times it would look like he was just kicking the ball wildly to clear it, and it was actually a long pass in a perfect place for a counter attack to start.  Through some of the lean years, Victor’s long balls started many of the team's best offensive chances.

He was a relentless player who provided me some of my happiest moments as a fan.  I can clearly remember how despondent I was and how happy I ended up being at the 2012 California Classico at Stanford Stadium.  I had organized a trip for my kid’s soccer club and had over 200 people in our group.  For many, it was their first time to an Earthquakes game.  I wanted them to love the Quakes as much as I did.  Steven Lenhart scored an early goal (and did some pull ups on the goal). Then David Beckham scored, Jason Hernandez scored an own goal, and Landon Donovan put Galaxy up 3-1 in the 41st minute after a misplay by the Quakes defense. 

We were sitting in the end zone, pretty close to the Galaxy supporters group, and I was dreading things would get worse for my boys in the black and blue.  Then, in the 44th minute, Big Vic scored his first MLS goal on a swinging redirect off a Marvin Chavez corner kick, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before or since.  It changed the whole outlook of the match.  Chris Wondolowski capped off the comeback with his unforgettable whirling, back-to-the-goal finish for the game winner.

I won’t forget the free-kick goal Victor scored that same year against Chivas where he took about 14 steps before he shot the ball around a 3-man wall and into the corner of the goal.  Nor will I forget the same approach he took when an opponent try to discourage him from a restart after a foul and stood about 3 yards from the ball.  Instead of asking the referee for 10 yards, he ran up and drilled the guy with the ball.  It deflected out of play for a throw-in and Victor had made his point. I don’t remember an opponent ever taking that same tact with him around.

Victor was listed as six-foot-two, but I was fortunate enough to share an elevator with him once.  I’m 5’10” and all I can think is that they measured him while wearing his longest studs on his cleats.  The truth is, while on the field, he played like he was six-foot-two -- and with the ferocity of lion. 

It was pretty clear this season that the club did not have plans for a 36-year-old center to come back in 2018.  In the middle portion of the season, other players found themselves where Victor had been a constant for years on the back line.  One of the things I am most grateful for is that Victor got a chance to be an impactful player on the run to the playoffs.  His passion for the club, and the game, shone bright.  His aggressive play in the September 30th must-win 2-1 victory over Portland showed the team how it needed to play if it was going to make the playoffs.  In spite of having trouble keeping up with speedster attackers, he was able to shore up a defense that ended the season -21 in goal differential, and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

There are other ways Victor has impacted my life.  He made me care about the country of Honduras, and how their national team is doing.  I openly cheered for a man nicknamed “Muma”.  I have no idea what it means, but it just sounds cool and makes me feel closer to him, even though our paths have rarely crossed.  He showed me how to be ready for when my number is called after feeling left out for a while.  He exemplified so many of the great things about the game and were a part of my growing love for the sport.  Most importantly, he showed me what can happen if a person puts their heart and soul into their craft, and complements it with humility, humor, and love.

Victor, I wish you well in whatever lies ahead.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories you provided me and my family as we got to watch you ply your trade.

Joe Washington is the senior coordinating producer for NBC Sports Bay Area/California  -- and a lifelong Quakes fan 

Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

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Michael Erichsen/Bildbyran

Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

When the San Jose Earthquakes named Chris Leitch their head coach around the halfway point of last season, the biggest question wasn’t why, it was why not — as in, why not assign him the interim tag most people hired during the middle of a year get?

At the time, general manager Jesse Fioranelli's sans-interim approach was the GM saying that not only was the label not necessary and that Leitch was the in-house solution the Quakes needed to end a playoff drought going on five seasons but also that he was the right person to guide the team into a brighter future. 

And so that vote of confidence, coupled with Leitch guiding the Earthquakes to their first playoff appearance since 2012, plus the lack of an official announcement by the team that a coaching search was underway makes Friday’s hiring of Mikael Stahre a bit eye-popping and provides no clear-cut answer to what happened behind closed doors when the Quakes came back from Vancouver following a brutal exit from the postseason. 

Rumors began swirling midway through the week that Fioranelli had Stahre, the front man over at Sweden’s BK Hacken, in his sights. And there are those people who would argue the writing was on the wall for Leitch given the team’s inconsistent play — especially on the road. But were it not for some ambiguous, less-than-reassuring endorsements of Leitch following the 5-0 playoff loss that left the door open for just about anything, there are others who would say that Friday’s hiring of Stahre was completely out of left field. 

If anything, it appears Fioranelli, who Quakes fans knew very little about when he was hired as the GM back in January, is continuing a precedent that he’ll pull any trigger at any time. 

Whether Fioranelli’s decision to hire the Swedish head coach is the right thing to do is yet to be seen, obviously. Stahre built his name in Sweden, rising from the junior ranks to the front of a first team that last year jumped six spots in the standings. It’s one of many coaching statistics San Jose lists to try and assure fans they’re getting a true soccer mind for the job in Stahre. 

Fioranelli and team President Tom Fox are saying all the right things to welcome Stahre into the fold, mentioning his ability to relate to players — who reportedly gave Stahre glowing endorsements — as a key reason why he was ultimately chosen to lead the Quakes (read between the lines what you will there given the rumored-sour and still-unofficial departures of former Quakes mainstays Simon Dawkins, Cordell Cato and David Bingham once Leitch took over). 

Moreover, Fioranelli reiterated some of the points in the team’s press release during a conference call Friday afternoon. He mentioned that Leitch would stay on as the team’s technical director — the role he had before becoming the head coach and that the club’s decision to relieve him of the head coaching job had nothing to do with where the club was coming from (read: playoffs) but more so where they wanted to go moving forward (read: as of right now, unclear). Fioranelli said the search was extensive and that Stahre was one of three finalists for the job — including one from South America. He again pointed out that Stahre’s values align with those of the club and he’s a man his former players vouch for.

So, at least at first glance, San Jose is doing its best to make pretty and tie a bow around what was at-a-minimum an awkward firing of Dominic Kinnear and hiring of a man in Leitch who did just enough to justify the change but not enough to warrant extending Fioranelli’s experiment any longer. 

Only time will tell exactly what Fioranelli is creating over at Avaya Stadium.