The Earthquakes won four straight games after implementing new Panamanian signing Anibal Godoy into their starting line-up.
With Godoy away on international duty, that streak came to an end on Saturday, when San Jose fell 2-1 to the Philadelphia Union in front of a sell-out crowd at Avaya Stadium.
A second half brace from Union substitute Conor Casey proved to be the difference, nullifying a Chris Wondolowski penalty kick in the 64th minute that gave the Quakes a 1-0 lead.
But San Jose looked lost for much of the match, often resembling the team that went winless for the entire month of July.
Defender Clarence Goodson did not mince words when assessing the San Jose performance:
“It looked like we wanted to get beat. … It was a really bad game from us. To say that we should’ve won is bogus man.”
The midfield pairing of Godoy and Marc Pelosi were key in the Quakes 1-0 victory over Western Conference leaders LA last weekend, but both were unavailable for selection. Fatai Alashe and Matias Perez Garcia both returned from injury to take their place.
Though both Garcia and Alashe have been bright spots for the Earthquakes in 2015, the switch up seemed to take some of the spark out of the Quakes attack, leading to a first half about as exciting as reading the dictionary.
Godoy’s calmness with the ball at his feet has been contagious, with the Earthquakes moving the ball better as a team since his arrival. That was not the case on Saturday, as head coach Dominic Kinnaer said after the match:
“We had three or four (turnovers) in a row in really bad areas, and if you continue to do that you’re gifting a team a little bit of momentum and sometimes they can take advantage of it…Shame on us for not protecting the lead better with our play.”
To add injury to insult, Victor Bernardez left in the 38th minute with a right hamstring strain. With no true defenders on the bench, Kinnear inserted defensive midfielder JJ Koval to take the veteran’s place.
Koval nearly gave away a goal with a poor first touch, only to follow it up with a clumsy challenge in the box that could have been a penalty.
San Jose came out of the gate with their first real scoring chance when a stretching Quincy Amarikwa rolled his effort off the far post, after being set up by a nice flick from Shea Salinas.
For the most part, the second half closely resembled the first, but San Jose caught a huge break in the 63rd minute when a Fabinho handball in the box lead to an Earthquakes penalty.
Wondolowski rolled the penalty kick into the net for his 13th goal of the season, giving the home side a 1-0 advantage.
With the overall lack of quality from both sides, it would be hard to say either team deserved a lead.
Justice appeared to be served in the 74th minute, when Philadelphia substitute Conor Casey equalized with a headed effort assisted by a beautiful Raymon Gaddis cross.
The goal ended San Jose’s scoreless streak at 447 minutes.
Connor Casey then buried the hatchet in the 86th minute, scoring his second headed goal, this time off a set piece take from Tranquilo Barnetta.
Goodson said allowing a cheap goal that late is inexcusable:
“At the end of the game on a set piece? That’s so poor from us. I think we’ve been pretty good on set pieces throughout the year, and to have the guys that we do, to give up a set piece…so bad, so bad.”
The Earthquakes now sit two points behind Portland for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have seven games remaining.
Despite entering the game in last place in the log jammed East, the win puts them one point out of the final playoff spot currently held by Montreal.
San Jose continues next week in the third of their four game home stand, facing Seattle Sounders, who sit three points ahead of the Earthquakes but have played one more match.