The struggle is real in San Jose.
An Earthquakes team that was already the worst in the league in 2018 – that won just four matches – found a way to dig beyond rock bottom and managed to somehow start the season worse than they were last year.
Even after a long 30-to-45 minute team meeting following Matias Almeyda’s press conference on Saturday, the mood in the locker room was intensely somber after they were trounced 5-0 by LAFC at home, their worst loss at Avaya Stadium since it opened in 2015.
“This game showed us what Matias asks from us. We are not there yet,” an emotional Guram Kashia said after Saturday’s match.”We lose, but they were better than us. We were trying by we were always behind a few steps and couldn’t manage to take them.”
San Jose looked lost and defeated on the pitch. Daniel Vega whiffed on a routine clearance. San Jose’s attack could barely create any real opportunities and those they did create couldn’t find the back of the net. LAFC ran over and through the Earthquakes’ backline and, off of the pitch, their traveling supporters made Avaya Stadium feel more like home at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
They even dubbed the match: “Cinco-cero.”
San Jose is winless in their last 12 MLS matches dating back to last year with their last win coming on August 29, 2018, against FC Dallas.
Kashia was one of just a few Earthquakes players that stuck around for the media on Saturday and wasn’t afraid to hold his emotions back.
“I feel that it’s like last season where we lose every game, every week, and we have to overcome that situation,” Kashia explained. “Then we can start winning because, obviously, we have players who can win games. I believe that because during the week we have some good [training] sessions and the level of the quality of the training is really high.
“But in the game, we are not there. And that makes me really angry. We invest so much in the training camps. We work so hard, and why it’s not paying it out, you know, it’s also like the individual players. We should believe more. Soccer is not until one goal. You know, we concede the one goal and everyone feels 10 feet smaller, you know. It hurts. It really hurts.
“We have to start believing in ourselves and then everyone will believe us too. We need the result, obviously. If I’m an Earthquakes fan, you know, when we lose four games, of course, I’m going to lose the faith a little bit in the players, not the club, but in the players. And now we have to respond as players, as just individual players. I cannot afford any mistake. You know every individual goalkeeper or striker, or forward when he has the chance he needs to score and I have to defend better.
“It’s something that we have to see in the mirror ourselves.”
Almeyda also didn’t hold back in his post-game press conference on Saturday either, admitting that his current project in San Jose would take up to four years and that he’s planning on sticking it out.
“There are moments in sport that are sour, like this one,” Almeyda said. “You are confronted with the reality. I’m not at all happy. I started a process that for the first time as a head coach that I lose by five goals.
“As a player, I never experienced this either, so I take this all as a learning lesson, and I take out conclusions. I’ve been respectful with the players that I have inherited, that I accepted, and I have given them enough time to change. Honestly, the game was disastrous. We knew the quality of our opposition and they marked the major difference between the team in first and the team in last, so there is a big difference.
“The magic doesn’t exist in soccer and here you repeatedly see mistakes that happened last season. My decision to come to San Jose was because it’s a long-term plan. I didn’t think that today we would be first. I believe in projects. My project is four years.”
Chris Wondolowski has tried to keep positive despite the immense struggles along the fact that he most likely won’t be in San Jose for the entirety of Almeyda’s four-year plan. He still remains two goals shy of breaking Landon Donovan’s all-time goalscoring record.
“You know it’s tough,” he said. “But the same time I know I have a role and it might not be at the top of the mountain when it comes but if I can help guys along the way to get there then that’s my role.
“I know that I’ve had 14 great years. Believe me, I do wish we were winning. I want to be winning and I know that we can change that.”
There are times when teams get blown out, pick themselves back up, figure out where the gameplan went wrong, and get themselves back on track the following week.
But for the San Jose Earthquakes, that isn’t the case. The problem doesn’t completely fall on Almeyda’s desired play style, the gameplan, or even the fit – they’re just parts of the problem. The problem, or at least part of it, is that while the Earthquakes talked about rebounding and coming into 2019 with a clean slate, they didn’t do it to start the new year.
But if remaining positive through adversity is the remedy for their current struggles or at least part of it, the Earthquakes are on the right track, apparently.
“This is our job. This is our life. So it’s not easy to have a smile on your face in moments like this,” Tommy Thompson said. “So you can’t get too low in the moments where things are terrible and you can’t get too high in the good moments because everything changes week to week.
“Everything can change. It can change.”