This article was going to be about scoring. More accurately, it was going to be about why prolific international stars such as Marco Ureña have not been scoring for the San Jose Earthquakes. That problem remains a major concern for San Jose but a 4-0 defeat to Toronto FC shifted the focus towards the club’s increasingly woeful defense.
Despite a very promising 3-0 victory against the LA Galaxy in their last away outing, Chris Leitch’s men succumbed to yet another road hammering on Saturday night as they conceded four to MLS leaders Toronto. The Galaxy victory offered hope for the Quakes’ increasingly challenging playoff push, but the miserable nature of their Toronto outing takes the wind out of their sails.
Although the Quakes showed marked improvement on the road early in the year, they have lacked the mental fortitude to maintain that trajectory more recently under Chris Leitch, who has allowed nearly three goals per game away from home so far in his nascent coaching career. Many MLS teams struggle away from home, but it takes a particularly woeful run of form to regularly concede four or more goals.
Leitch has shifted tactics to adapt to the Quakes’ road struggles, opting to play with four at the back instead of his preferred 3-5-2 formation, but these changes, which worked well against LA, didn’t yield the desired effect against Toronto. USMNT forward Jozy Altidore terrorized the visitors with his strength up top, netting two second half goals to comfortably sink the Quakes.
It was always going to be difficult for the Quakes against the rampant league-leaders, and Toronto’s strong showing offered no favors to the visitors. The home side controlled the match from the get-go and made an early breakthrough when Víctor Vázquez capitalized on goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell’s flub.
The Quakes tried to play off the counter-attack but their breakaways lacked speed and precision, which limited Ureña – who netted three brilliant goals in two games during the international break – to speculative efforts from distance.
Toronto were particularly dangerous man-to-man down the left flank, where the pace of former Quakes full-back Justin Morrow wreaked havoc. Morrow poked wide at the end of a blistering run early on and Sebastian Giovinco also fired over from Altidore’s flick.
Toronto doubled their lead in early in the second period, when Altidore peeled off his marker to convert into the bottom corner. Apparently, the Quakes hadn’t learned their lesson, however, as they left Altidore unmarked at the far post to head home Toronto’s third.
Jonathan Osorio tallied Toronto’s four with a driven effort in the sixty-sixth minute and the Quakes’ night went from bad to worse as video review saw Darwin Ceren sent off in the closing minutes. The Quakes still maintain a thirty-one-per-cent chance of qualifying for the playoffs according to sportsclubstats but their fate is likely a foregone conclusion if they can’t reap significant improvement in their run-in, particularly from next weekend’s critical home match against Houston.