Timbers tumble Quakes’ playoff hopes

SANTA CLARA — The San Jose Earthquakes suffered one of their worst results of the season last month in Portland, squandering two separate leads to draw the Timbers 3-3 in a game crucial to both teams’ Western Conference playoff hopes.

The Quakes suffered a similar fate Saturday in the reverse fixture, losing to Portland 2-1 and blowing a second half lead that mathematically eliminated San Jose from playoff contention.

San Jose has now played in 11 consecutive games without a win. Their last victory came on August 2.

Conversely, the game was a must-win for the visiting Timbers, who sit four points behind Vancouver for the fifth playoff spot.

In a three-minute span, Portland took the lead on two deflected second half goals by Rodney Wallace. The Quakes again gave up a second half advantage, spoiling a Chris Wondolowski goal in the 56th minute.

It was another unlucky defeat in a season of tough breaks for San Jose. A disappointed Mark Watson could only acknowledge the obvious:

“The two goals they scored: a deflection and a deflection redirection. Kinda the way our season’s been going.”

Defender Jason Hernandez echoed the frustration:

“Portland’s a good team but to give up two deflection goals is the story of our season. I’d love to have some deflection goals go in for us. Feels like we’ve been on the wrong end of things a lot of the year. A lot of good work and good fighting in front of our home fans was really for naught because of two deflection goals.”

A Sam Cronin belter from 18 yards out nearly gave the Quakes a first half goal they desperately needed, but the shot ricocheted off the arm of Timbers keeper Donovan Ricketts, and Wondolowski scuffed the ensuing rebound.

Though it was hardly a tap-in, the miss prompted a “just like Belgium” chant from the visiting Timbers army support group.

It was the 1906 Ultras who were chanting when Wondo knocked in an actual tap-in to give the Quakes a 1-0 in the 56th minute.

Ricketts saved Wondo’s initial header over defender Liam Ridgewell, but was completely out of position to deal with the rebound. The goal was the striker’s 14th of the season, and set up by a beautiful cross from Shea Salinas.

Ridgewell nearly made the Quakes pay for the missed opportunity in first half stoppage time, but a fully stretched Jon Busch knocked away the Ridgewell header that almost found its way inside the top right corner.

Shortly after taking the lead, San Jose nearly scored again, albeit this time into their own net. It took another dive by Busch to save San Jose from an embarrassing equalizer.

The veteran keeper would have no such luck in the 71st minute, when a hopeful strike by Wallace deflected of the foot of the diving Hernandez, leaving Busch helpless as the ball flew into the far corner.

Wallace struck again three minutes later and again had help, this time from teammate Ridgewell, whose header ping-ponged off Wallace’s head and into the back of the net. The goals were Wallace’s third and fourth MLS goals of the 2014 season.

With the playoffs out of reach, Jon Busch was asked the inevitable question of what San Jose has left to play for. The 37 year-old keeper gave a laundry list in response:

“You’re playing for points, you’re playing for pride in the jersey, for pride in your own play, you’re playing for contracts. The list goes on and on. I mean if you don’t have motivation you need to get the hell out of here.”