SANTA CLARA — Setting a club record for consecutive winless games might be the worst way to send off your stadium of seven years, but it seemed oddly apropos for the 2014 San Jose Earthquakes.
Saturday night was a match as forgettable as this year’s season.
San Jose played the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 0-0 draw in their final game at Buck Shaw Stadium, finishing the season with a 4-6-5 record at home in 2014. The Earthquakes will move to a brand new, 18,000-capacity, European-style venue west of the San Jose Airport for the 2015 season.
Defender Jason Hernandez played in the Earthquakes’ first game at Buck Shaw in 2008, and talked after the match about the memories he’ll take:
“I think over the last seven years we’ve played here, more often than not it’s been a tough place for opponents to win. Defensively, we’ve been solid, although we’ve let up a little this year. For our fans to come out to Buck Shaw [Stadium] one last time and see us pitch another shut out make our unit proud. We’re going to miss this place. Our fans brought a ton of energy week in and week out, through our ups and downs. We have a lot of respect for these fans and we’re hoping they follow us into the new stadium, on to bigger and better things. We appreciate them very much.”
A night of lasts marked a first for Quakes interim manager Ian Russell following Wednesday’s firing of Mark Watson.
Those hoping Watson’s dismissal might have an immediate impact, were left sorely disappointed. But hey, at least San Jose put a shot on target. Three, in fact.
Fourteen competitive games have now come and gone since San Jose marked a tally in the win column, a record since the team began participating in MLS in 1996. Their last victory — a 1-0 home win against Seattle — came August 2, two months and 16 days since Saturday’s loss, if anybody’s counting.
That’s also the last time San Jose kept a clean sheet until Saturday. Russell’s 4-1-4-1 formation was one of the few things that worked for San Jose, who allowed only one shot on target from Vancouver.
Midfielder Sam Cronin was employed to spy Pedro Morales and did a wonderful job, not allowing a shot on target from the Chilean attacker who was subbed off in the 71st minute.
Cronin talked about the importance of ending that streak before the season ends:
“It’s been a really frustrating season on the whole and obviously it’s a difficult stretch that we’re in. That’s all behind us now. All we can do is control our next week of training and put in a good performance and get a win at Chivas.”
Jon Busch was forced to make only one save, giving him 135 for the season. That leaves Busch two away from the club record of 137 set by Joe Cannon in his first stint with the Quakes in 2000.
Russell was proud of the defensive performance:
“The whole back four was just fabulous. I think it started with Wondo and then the midfield five, who just put pressure on all the time. It just put pressure on the back four and they really stood up tonight.”
The formation remained the only unique aspect of the San Jose performance, with Russell continuing the conservative use of substitutions that had many fans tearing their hair out with Watson.
Young spark plug Tommy Thompson again did not see the field, aa Russell instead chose to bring on defender Shaun Francis in the 78th minute as his second and final substitution.
Some might’ve assumed that the evening would be bittersweet for many of the Earthquakes players who’ve called Buck Shaw their home, though Russell offered a different sentiment:
“Kinda glad to be out of this stadium. There’s been a lot of good memories but when you have the big one down the street, I think we’re ready to go.”
San Jose goes into its final game next Saturday without a goal in 355 consecutive minutes of competitive play.
The draw is significant for Vancouver who are marred in a dogfight with Portland for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With the draw the Whitecaps go into the final match day a single point ahead of their Cascadia counterparts.
The man of the match goes to the Earthquakes support group 1906 Ultras, who chanted for the entire 90 minutes (as is customary) and displayed a charming banner in the first half that read:
“Wins and losses — joy and sadness — great memories and no regrets, goodbye Buck Shaw!”
The player who’s scored more than anybody at Buck Shaw stadium nearly gave the Quakes the lead late in the first half. Chris Wondolowski’s strike in front of goal was thwarted by a diving foot save from Vancouver keeper David Ousted, whose view was obstructed by multiple bodies.
The Wondo attempt remained the best chance of the match for both teams, who combined for a total of four shots on goal.
San Jose will head to LA to face Chivas USA in their final game of the season next weekend, in a match that may decide who finishes at the bottom of the Western Conference.