One trip to Houston and the San Jose Earthquakes are feeling the heat. The Quakes suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to the Houston Dynamo on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, stretching their winless streak to six matches and intensifying the pressure on Dominic Kinnear’s men to earn their first road win of the season against Minnesota United next weekend.
Defensive errors from Fatai Alashe and David Bingham cost the Quakes the chance to nick their first road win in ten games, and an inability to score on the road threatens to doom them to more doleful losses to come.
“We made some tired decisions out there with the ball,” said Kinnear. “It is a difficult day and a difficult road trip, and we are all disappointed. I don’t think the Dynamo overwhelmed us. I think we made some mistakes and made it easier for them.”
Houston didn’t maintain the high pressure that the Quakes have struggled to handle in previous matches, but they didn’t have to when the Quakes were so lethargic and error-prone.
Shea Salinas started over Jahmir Hyka on the left wing and Marco Ureña reclaimed his starting spot over Danny Hoesen up front, but neither could make an impact and Ureña was particularly sluggish on the ball.
Midfielder Fatai Alashe continued his stint at center-back, replacing Victor Bernardez in the starting lineup, but his afternoon was marred by a penalty challenge in the tenth minute. The American lunged into a late tackle just inside the box and tripped Alex to give Houston a blatant penalty, which was coolly converted by Cubo Torres.
Torres came close again five minutes later, testing David Bingham with a dipping free-kick from twenty-two yards.
Despite his struggles, Ureña did provide a flash of brilliance to turn his defender on the edge of the penalty area on the half-hour mark, but couldn’t convert a simple finish inside the box, shooting right at goalkeeper Joe Willis. Bar a speculative attempt from Darwin Ceren, that chance was the most attacking vigor the Quakes could muster in a woeful first half.
Alberth Elis headed wide after Alex rounded Nick Lima down the left, but Houston were contented to take their 1-0 lead into the break.
Kinnear sought to inject pace into their lineup with the introduction of Hoesen for Ureña in the sixty-third minute. The Dutchman created a decent opportunity within moments of coming on, breaking in behind the Houston defense with a diagonal run and testing Willis from a tight angle.
Although there were early signs that the visitors were building up for another late comeback, their momentum was quashed when Bingham flubbed a corner and Elis bundled the ball into the empty net at the far post. Juan Cabezas hit the crossbar from the rebound of another poorly cleared corner soon thereafter, but the contest was over.
With nine points from their first eight matches of the season, the Quakes are four points behind their tally at this point last season as a result largely of road woes that, even at this early stage, pose a risk to their playoff hopes. If they don’t secure points against weaker sides on the road, it’s unlikely that their solid home form will be enough.