Not much mirth with the San Jose Mirthquakes in the 2-1 loss to Chivas USA this week.
I detected an air of complacency playing the hitherto worst team in MLS in Chivas USA, as the San Jose Earthquakes showed only halfhearted effort at home this week. In the early games of this season, there had been some signs of improved midfield play, and good structure on the field, but this week the Quakes continued the errant play that started in New York, and gave up the ball needlessly. There was no passion evident from some players, and even Dawkins’s performance seemed to tail off as it became increasingly apparent that the team had lost its grip on the game.
While I tried to pin last week’s poor performance I on jet lag, if that effect holds true, based on this week’s performance I don’t hold out for much hope for a win in Philadelphia next weekend. I believe by now it’s apparent that the opposition has figured out last year’s Wondo-centric strategy. The Quakes’ forwards and attacking midfielders need enough energy to pull defenders off Wondo, or take advantage of gaps created by their tight marking of Wondo.
Consequently the fan forums have been hyperactive and many place the blame at the feet of two players in particular: Scott Sealy and his substitute this week Ryan Johnson. I can say that I have seen some good play from Johnson, but his main problem is consistency. I wonder if it might be a lack of confidence – he did much better in the reserve game, where he scored twice and was a much more forceful presence calling for the ball and directing traffic. For me, Sealy was the best (worst?) example of the lack of hustle on the Quakes team against Chivas USA. Once again, he failed to move on to the ball and waited for passes to come directly to his feet, balls that were quickly intercepted by Chivas USA players. I saw much more effort from him on the air hockey tables at the season ticket holder party last year.
Quakes fans want to see defender Ike Opara in the starting eleven; he played well enough to be touted as a rookie of the year in 2010 before a broken foot ended his season. Injury has kept out Joey Gjersten, who had a productive pre-season and was creative in his midfield slot early in the regular season. This week the Quakes published an article on the roster being the second oldest team in MLS with an average age of 28.3 years - I perceive a definite bias in Coach Frank Yallop’s squad selection toward experience, with the younger players sitting patiently on the bench. Maybe it’s time to put some trust in these guys: Brad Ring, Ellis McLoughlin and Anthony Ampaipitakwong (can I get a spell check and smaller font for that jersey please?). On the upside this week, it was great to see Steven Lenhart on the pitch (not sure about the new ‘mini-tache’ though), and Ampai was subbed on in the second half and showed hustle we haven’t seen down the right wing in a good while.
At this point, the Quakes are the worst team in the Western Conference, and can’t count on other teams to show the same level of complacency they showed toward Chivas USA. Team captain Ramiro Corrales is a solid defender, but his leadership on the field is, by his own admission, very low key and mediates by example rather than verbally. The players are going have to show much more passion, with the kind of unrelenting effort shown by Chris Wondolowski who was as active in his own penalty area clearing the ball as he was trying to put it in the opposition’s net. After the game, he was the only player to greet the Ultras, shake hands with the fans and sign autographs, showing a commitment to his team and its fans that might ultimately earn him the armband.