In seasons past, it was impossible to write off the San Jose Earthquakes when they were in with a fighting chance. Last year, for example, the club rallied to make a monumental playoff push just when it had appeared their season was over and drew the battle out until the final day of the season.
This year, however, there has been no such playoff push and Sporting Kansas City dealt a massive blow to the Quakes’ playoff hopes in a 2-1 victory at Avaya Stadium on Saturday night. The Quakes have slumped to the lowest ebb their season and are now seven points below the red line with just five games to go, winless in their last seven games in all competitions.
“It’s killer, to be honest,” said Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear. “We’ve got to put together a run of wins that we haven’t done this year. It’s a crushing result tonight.”
Quakes defender Jordan Stewart told QuakesTalk: “It’s an almighty blow to our playoff push. Tomorrow we’re going to look at the table and know we’ve had numerous chances to win games, keep clean sheets and be more proactive instead of reactive. We needed to win and we didn’t, it’s bitterly disappointing.”
Kansas City had taken an early lead following Quincy Amarikwa’s injury, but the Quakes clawed their way back into the match by way of Simon Dawkins’ equalizer. Yet SKC weathered the storm before grabbed a late winner on the break.
The Quakes had burst off the starting blocks and nearly took the lead less than ten seconds in as Stewart hurried down the left wing and swung a cross into the middle, where Tim Melia just beat Quincy Amarikwa to the ball. Wondo followed up the shot but Melia batted the ball away.
More pressingly, though, replays showed that Amarikwa’s knee buckled awkwardly as he came clattering to the ground and the player had to be replaced by Henok Goitom. Many Quakes fans had been wanting to see more of Goitom this season, but not in this fashion.
The Quakes were evidently rocked and conceded moments later when Dom Dwyer got in behind the centerbacks to convert Paulo Nagamura’s lovely clipped back from the right with a powerful header.
Yet the home side slowly regained their momentum, with Stewart seeing a low effort blocked off the line from a corner and Goitom heading onto the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
In a lean, 6’2” frame, Goitom appeared somewhat gangly as he strode around the pitch but was livelier than he had been in his first two appearances for the club. With two minutes to go in the half, he clawed the Quakes back into the game as he took the ball off of Nuno Coelho right in front of the SKC goal and back-heeled the ball into the path of Simon Dawkins to convert from point-blank range.
The Quakes peppered the SKC goal with shots in the second half, as Chris Wondolowski’s flick was denied by Melia and Quintero’s low drive from the edge of the area was clawed away by the goalkeeper, but SKC effectively shut out the game with the introductions of Ike Opara and Brad Davis at the back.
The visitors then picked their moments to counter on the break and came close when Brad Davis’s curling effort from fifteen yards was tipped just wide by Bingham. The winner came in the eighty-first minute when Kevin Ellis bundled home a Benny Feilhaber’s corner from close range. It counted, whether he meant it or not.
It will now take a near-miracle for the Quakes to reach the playoffs but, at the moment, the club appears incapable salvaging even a point.