The San Jose Earthquakes ended their seven-game losing streak Sunday, playing the visiting Portland Timbers to a 0-0 stalemate on a warm afternoon at Avaya Stadium.
The Quakes defense kept their sixth clean sheet despite being without center-back Clarence Goodson, but dodged a bullet it in the second half when Portland’s Diego Valeri had his penalty kick strike the crossbar.
San Jose is in desperate need of a win, though the Quakes will take the draw against a Western Conference opponent, especially after going 0-7 in the month of July. The Earthquakes are six points out of the sixth and final playoff spot in the West, currently occupied by Seattle who have played two more games.
Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear was pleased to off the schneid, but knows the team will have to do better than drawing at home if they want to make the playoffs:
“Thought we played better than we have in a while. That’s the positive of it. Obviously you’d like to have the win. Look at it on their side they miss a penalty kick with about 15 minutes to go. I thought overall our game was much better today, and that should be the standard we set for the rest of the season.”
Despite the clean sheet, goalkeeper David Bingham was less satisfied:
“Disappointing for me, personally. I think we let them off the hook. Felt like we were the better team throughout. Credit to them, they didn’t give up throughout the game so they did well but if we could’ve just been a little sharper here or there we could’ve got three points.”
Goodson’s pulled hamstring forced Dom Kinnear to make a change to his starting eleven, sliding first choice left-back Jordan Stewart centrally to pair with Victor Bernardez, and bringing on reserve full back Shaun Francis to fill Stewart’s spot.
Kinnear was mostly happy with the performance of the makeshift back line:
“I thought they did pretty good. Obviously David makes a real good save on the Melano chance. Other than that it was stuff outside the box. At times today we were very good and helpful, and at times I think their chances came from our hesitations.”
Wondolowski was painfully close to giving the Quakes an early goal in the seventh minute after getting behind the Portland back line. Shea Salinas put a cross in from the left side that found Wondo at the penalty spot, but a poor first touch gave Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey enough time to get off his line and make a save.
The chance would end up being San Jose’s best of the game, and Wondolowski said they can’t continue to miss those kind of opportunities:
“We gotta stop tying games. We still have a belief that we can make the playoffs and you have to win games and you have to win home games. You have to put chances away and I think that changes the whole dynamic of the game, especially mine at the beginning.”
San Jose came close again in the 34th minute, when a Salinas cross nearly found the top corner of Kwarasey’s net. The goalkeeper appeared to whiff on his punch and was out of position to deal with what may have been an attempted cross.
Timbers right-back Alvas Powell has been one of the best players in MLS in 2015, but was hampered by a leg injury in the first half, causing head coach Caleb Porter to replace him with Taylor Peay at half time.
The sub didn’t stop Portland from getting off to a hot start to the second half, when a Fanendo Adi strike clattered off Bingham’s far post two minutes after the restart, following a bad giveaway by Fatai Alashe. Diego Valeri followed with a strike of his own in the 52nd minute that required Bingham to make a diving stop at his far post.
The Earthquakes answered with a near goal of their own in the 60th minute, when Francis nearly scored a golazo on a curling strike that beat Kwarasey and nearly squeaked inside his far post.
A roller coaster of emotions for Quakes fans began in the 73rd minute, when Bingham made an incredible save on a point blank opportunity from Portland’s new Designated Player Lucas Melano, who entered the game in the 66th minute.
Seconds later, the Timbers were given a penalty when Francis cut down Valeri in the box with a mistimed tackle. Bingham attempted to ice Valeri by taking his time to get set for the penalty, and the strategy seemed to work, as the Argentine slammed his shot off the crossbar, keeping the game knotted up at 0-0.
Matias Perez Garcia limped off the field in the 82nd minute after a hard collision and was replaced by Tommy Thompson. Dom Kinnear did not have an injury update after the game, and said he’d likely know more tomorrow.
Up next for San Jose is an away match against Houston Dynamo on Saturday. The Dynamo currently sit one place and one point above San Jose in the Western Conference standings. The Earthquakes remain in 9th with 26 points.
Like every conference game from here on out, the fixture is crucial:
“This last month of July we were playing conference teams and that’s the quickest way to make up ground, or quickest way to lose ground. It’s a conference opponent and one that’s right above us. We need to start winning games.”
After the match Kinnear said the Earthquakes are looking to improve the squad before the transfer window closes on Aug. 6, and has had multiple meetings with general manager John Doyle and team president Dave Kaval on the topic. Kinnear said they are looking to add midfield or attacking player(s).