It was a winter the San Jose Earthquake supporters really didn’t have to prepare themselves for. Historically, in the past five years, the Quakes have been a club of sorrows and empty results.
Foreign players put pen to paper, the club remained in the hunt with its former outdated, yet legendary, manager and, as unconvincing as some results were, the Quakes sat as high as fifth in the Western Conference with the like of rookie manager Chris Leitch in charge. Eventually, the Earthquakes will come face to face with autumn, a season and an indicator that the Bay Area side has reached their annual nadir.
But, for those in denial or senseless to seasons, Wednesday night’s Quakes 4-1 collapse to the Chicago Fire, who clinched playoffs for the first time since 2012, at Avaya Stadium might have endured far too strong of a dose of disappointment for it to be reversed. The Quakes have yet again hit rock bottom and there is no denying it, not even within the locker room.
“The sign of a good team is how you bounce back when you’re at your low,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski said. “To be honest, this our low right now.”
“We are going to find out Saturday,” he added. “I’m expecting us to come back and play what we’re capable of. The way we played against Portland earlier this year at home, 3-0. That’s the team I’m expecting us to come out [as] and not the team tonight. Again, I want to apologize to the fans. It wasn’t good enough. Embarrassing. I’m sorry.”
It was a night in which Quakes legendary No. 8 manouvered to the third- place podium with Jaime Moreno after scoring his 133rd career goal. It was also the same night Wondolowski called his and his team’s performance “embarrassing.”
There was no time, no place to recognize such a rare feat, but to accept the brutal reality.
“It’s a do-or-die point right now,” Wondolowski told SBI about Saturday’s must-win match against a visiting Timbers side. “Never a good time to use it, but it’s literally the time.”
In similar fashion as in prior instances, Lietch and co. were simply outclassed, outsmarted and outperformed. Nemanja Nikolic, who went into the game with 18 goals, was given the green light from the Quakes unsynchronized defense from the moment the first whistle echoed. For the remaining 90 minutes, the Quakes suffered in every part of the game primarily mentally.
“It’s mentality-wise,” defender Florian Jungwirth said. “I mean it’s not the first time. Maybe it’s the first time at home, but if you see the games on the road we concede a goal, we lose [by] three, four goals difference every time.
“I’ve never seen that before in my career, but it’s tough to have an explanation,” he added. “Sure, obviously, it’s mentality-wise; we talk a lot about that but we can’t handle it. It makes me angry.”
It’s strenuous to depict a method that has worked for the eighth place Western Conference side, a club that has already held a “few” player-only meetings and team talks following several excruciating defeats. On the pitch, player rotations and formation realignments have done the very least.
The Black and Blue have only flirted with playoffs and nothing else. A habit that has, again, put them in the most uncomfortable, inconvenient position.
“We have nine points,” coach Leitch said. “We are going to need all of them and we’ll see where that leads us. We know what we have to do: win out.”