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VAR and poor second half knock San Jose Earthquakes out of playoff spot

Two years ago the San Jose Earthquakes needed a miracle to get into the MLS Cup playoffs and got it via a last-second stoppage-time goal, then, against Minnesota United on Decision Day.

If the Earthquakes are to return to the postseason for the second time in three years – finishing above the red line in seemingly miraculous fashion given the start to their season as well – they may need another one of those moments in the final two weeks.

San Jose’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night marked their fourth-straight loss and effectively knocked them back below the playoff line into eighth place in the Western Conference (13-14-5, 44 points), one point shy of now seventh-place FC Dallas (12-11-9, 45 points).

The Earthquakes didn’t necessarily play all too well, specifically in the second half, especially with both Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza out due to suspension, along with head coach Matias Almeyda – all three were ejected from the Earthquakes’ 3-1 loss at Atlanta United last Saturday. They had chances in the first half and capitalized on one of them, a first-touch goal by Jackson Yueill in the 35th minute.

Once again, VAR hurt the Earthquakes chances at a much-needed win, twice Wednesday night.

The first VAR reversal came in the 46th minute after Magnus Eriksson scored what would’ve been a second goal for San Jose, a crucial one coming out of the halftime break. However, VAR and referee Baldomero Toledo determined that Danny Hoesen was in an offside position on the initial chance on goal by Jackson Yueill, which was eventually deflected by Union keeper Andre Blake and then knocked in by Eriksson.

The second, and even more crucial VAR decision came in the 83rd minute after VAR determined that Aurelien Collin didn’t illegally tackle Andres Rios out of the back of the 18-yard box, nullifying an original call for a penalty kick, one that would’ve equalized the match for San Jose after they allowed a pair of goals to the Union in the 70th and 76th minute.

Earthquakes fans retaliated with their inappropriate chants and threw bottles onto the field after the negated penalty.

“There’s always controversial calls in every game that we have. Sometimes they go in your favor, sometimes they go against you,” Union head coach Jim Curtain said after the match. “The intention of VAR is to get plays right, for the most part, I think it does.

“But throwing things onto the field is a tough situation for anybody. To be honest, I think they should’ve cleared us off the field just for the safety of the players.”

Nobody from the San Jose Earthquakes locker room spoke to the media after the match.

The Earthquakes run to the playoffs became a bit more complicated following Wednesday night’s blown loss. They’ll need wins against both Seattle and at Portland if they want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Seattle clinched their spot in the playoffs with the Quakes loss and Portland’s 2-2 draw against New England Wednesday night.

They’ll also need a bit of help on the way, starting with Sunday’s matches.

Along with needing both wins in the final two matches, San Jose needs both Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids on Sunday to take down both Portland and FC Dallas, who leaped over San Jose with the Earthquakes’ loss, for the Quakes to have a legit chance at playing Portland with a postseason berth on the line on Decision Day next week.


  1. Imo, MLS through various measures, reffing, especially with VAR now, has the ability to impact outcomes. The goal during the playoff run is to keep as many teams alive for as long as possible for the overly hyped Decision Day…

    I’m not a total conspiracy nut. I think once the playoff teams are set after the last game it is open competition without blatantly strange ref and Var interference.


    the games in Portland and San Jose had a real intrusive stench to them.

    The casual fan thinks it is just crap reffing…it isn’t…something needs to be done about it.

    I was at the game and the look on Baldo’s face after the VAR overruled his call was telling. He looked absolutely stunned and queasy.

    That was a stone cold PK…the arm was extended for a prolonged period with force…with no attempt to play the ball only the man.

    It is becoming an obvious sham…and it has nothing to do with incompetence.

    It’s high time the league gets called out…

  2. Did VAR knock them out of a playoff spot, or did being in an offside position? If VAR is now a method of making calls, enforcing the rules, it is what it is- is likely not going to change- the sniveling every time a VAR call is made is getting old. Get over it. How about we focus on the call made and if need be, the validity of the call. It was either a good call in the spirit of the rules or it was not- the fact that it was made by VAR makes it no more or less legitimate.

    • Hoessen was offside, the right call was made in the end. The decision to overturn the pk was more controversial, especially since he ruled it was a foul on San Jose. You could understand if he said shoulder to shoulder no foul at all, but when Cimon makes no effort to play the ball in fact let’s the ball tun past him to play the player and initiates contact how is he fouled?

    • I should be the guy that agrees with you Rico Po.
      Brian Schmetzer always says being a ref is a very tough job.
      But VAR was always going to invite the criticism because it was supposed to make sure it gets it right. You would think MLS would be the best of that, but the reality is it has been MLS has been terrible at VAR and wrong so many times.
      That San Jose call makes you think conspiracy theories that I don’t believe in. Overturning an obvious PK?

    • I guess my point was…….. if you disagree with the call- it wasn’t VAR at fault- it was the poor judgement of the guy who missed the call in spite of having the benefit of time, slow-mo and multiple angles to get it right. So, in my opinion, the headline, the crux of the discussion should be the bad call, how and why. No excuse to miss them badly with the huge benefit of VAR. That is all.


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