One might argue that the San Jose Earthquakes played themselves out of a playoff berth last weekend when they blew two separate leads to draw Western Conference rivals Portland 3-3.
But even after a season of endless missed opportunities, the Quakes entered Wednesday’s match at BC Place in Vancouver eight points out of the fifth and final playoff spot with nine matches remaining.
Once again though, San Jose could not win the “must win,” falling to fellow playoff hopefuls Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 and eradicating what little optimism San Jose had of a late-season playoff push.
San Jose is not mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but the loss in Vancouver extends their winless streak to six games and they now sit 10 points back from the final spot — which the Whitecaps now hold — with eight games remaining.
That winless streak began following an injury to Yannick Djalo, who scored the lone goal in the victory against then league-leading Seattle Sounders at Levi’s Stadium. That victory was probably the peak of the season for the Earthquakes, but San Jose never recovered from the loss of their creative attacker.
In a first half with only two shots on target, the lone goal for Vancouver came from the penalty spot, following a questionable foul call on Quakes defender Victor Bernardez.
Referee Jose Carlos Rivero pointed to the spot when Vancouver defender Kendall Waston went down after making contact with Bernardez while attempting a header. Based on Waston’s flailing reaction, Rivero thought Bernardez pushed Waston in the back to deny his headed opportunity, but replays appeared to show minimal contact.
San Jose has been burned by soft penalties all season, just last week losing an opportunity for three points versus Real Salt Lake on a highly contentious call.
Waston would also beat Bernardez in round two, sealing the victory for the hosts with an impressive headed goal despite strong marking from the Honduran.
The lone bright spot for San Jose was Jon Busch once again, who for the second match in a row came up with a save at full stretch to deny Vancouver a three-goal advantage.
The Quakes return home on Sunday for their third and final showdown with rivals LA Galaxy. The match was supposed to mark the final appearance of Landon Donovan at Buck Shaw Stadium, but the soon-to-retire star will not be available due to yellow card accumulation.