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.