Rosano: Despite unbeaten streak, Quakes can improve


Rosano: Despite unbeaten streak, Quakes can improve


Nick Rosano

SAN JOSE -- The San JoseEarthquakes might be on their best run of results since 2008, but ask them, andtheyll say they can play even better. In each of his past three postgame pressconferences after home wins, head coach Frank Yallop has expressed his desirefor even better play, especially in terms of moving the ball around the field.Weve actually done that for the past three home games thatweve won, not played particularly well in the first half, Yallop said afterlast Saturdays 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Despite winning their last three home games and tying two onthe road, the Earthquakes have managed to score only one goal in the firsthalf, Chris Wondolowskis opener in a 1-1 draw with Vancouver on May 11. When the Earthquakestake to the field on the road at D.C. United on Saturday evening, it will havebeen exactly a month since the teams last first-half goal. However, the Earthquakes are keenly aware of this fact, andthis week they have looked to continue improving their passing game to augmentthe positive signs the team has shown in the past few weeks. We worked on it this week, Yallop said. I didnt think weplayed particularly well on Saturday. It wasnt a great performance of playingsoccer, but what we did show is fight, scrap, and good finishes. We just talked about moving it quicker and getting it offour feet, goalkeeper Jon Busch said. One and two touch, not standing on theball and not letting it die, just keep it moving, and I think weve done wellwith that. Some of the struggle to move the ball can be attributed tothe cautious nature of the teams visiting Buck Shaw, who like to keep menbehind the ball, coupled with the Earthquakes preference to play a tight,defensively sound first half. Some teams come in here, not necessarily trying to go afterus, but being satisfied with a point and getting a tie, defender JasonHernandez said after the win over Houston. Weve talked about being really tight in the first half ofevery game or the first 20 minutes, not give them a goal, Yallop added. Ithink weve really settled into that and maybe not played better from that, butits worked. While some teams struggle to create chances because they seeso little of the ball, winning possession has not necessarily been the issuefor the Earthquakes. The midfield duo of Sam Cronin and Brad Ring has done verywell at shutting down opponents offenses and winning the ball, and are nowlooking to continue improving the offensive side of their game. Were always trying to work on ball movement, Cronin said.Defensively, the pressure mentality is the basis for our game, but we thinkwere capable of being a team that moves the ball and knocks the ball aroundwell, makes the other team work. Fans caught a glimpse of this quick movement in the dyingminutes of Saturdays win, when Cronin played a good give and go with SimonDawkins, who collected Cronins pass to score on a breakaway. With many of theteams goals coming from crosses out wide, Cronins defense-splitting verticalball was a sign that the team, even though it has found a successful formula,is continuing to look for new ways to break down opponents. Im always working on all aspects of my game and the moretimes I see that final pass and slot people through thats what I need to bedoing, Cronin said. With Cronin and Ring starting to form a good understandingin the center of the park and looking to sharpen their offensive talents,better passing soccer wont be far off for the Earthquakes. Each opponent willpresent different tests, but now, the Earthquakes could start looking to forcetheir opponent to adapt to their style, a hallmark of a strong team andpossible sign of good things to come.For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, youcan 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.