The Earthquakes got stuck in a trap game and suffered a devastating loss at home Wednesday night.
But then the match was played. Perhaps they were looking ahead to the Saturday night match against the playoff-bound Columbus Crew, because San Jose came out and was embarrassed 3-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium in front of 9,829.
“It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t get anything going. Hopefully it was just one of those games,” said Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop. “We’ll just dust ourselves off and get ready for the weekend.”
San Jose came out with some passion, but after the first 10 or 15 minutes, the momentum swung in Chicago’s favor. And in the 39th minute, the Fire had two corners, capitalizing on the second one when Freddie Ljungberg bent a ball to Steven Kinney who headed it past Jon Busch for the 1-0 lead.
“It was very important to show our fans that we have a fighting spirit,” said Ljungberg of the team’s fading playoff chances. “The whole team did it.”
After the first goal, which was Chicago’s first in 402 minutes, it seemed to boost the team’s morale.
“We got more belief in our team,” said Ljungberg of the Fire players after taking the lead. “After the goal, our defenders didn’t give them a sniff to score.”
Ljungberg scored in the 72nd minute, assisted by Patrick Nyarko, on some clever footwork, splitting two Quakes defenders before slipping a shot past Busch for the 2-0 lead. Then, after packing in the defense for the final 18 minutes of play, Ljungberg set up Nyarko in stoppage time for the 3-0 final.
“They took their chances when they came along, and they punished us,” said Yallop. “Every game in this league is hard; we have a ways to go before we make the playoffs.”
The Fire (7-10-8, 29 points) entered the game with a 6-10-8 record, 12 points behind Ljungberg’s former team, Seattle Sounders FC, for the final MLS playoff spot. And San Jose (11-8-6, 39 points) appeared to overlook the Fire, thinking it would be a sure win.
“It doesn’t matter about their record, it doesn’t matter that they probably won’t make the playoffs,” said Busch. “Unfortunately, we were a little casual tonight … hopefully it’s a wake-up call.”
And now San Jose has to put this match behind them and look ahead to another cross-country flight to take on the Crew in Ohio this Saturday.
“It’s always nice when you lose a game to be able to play. You don’t want two weeks to dwell on it,” said Earthquakes leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. “We’re chomping at the bit to get out there again.”
One thing San Jose will have to change in order to right the ship on Saturday against the Crew is to get ahead early. When the Quakes fall behind a goal, they don’t come back and win -- outside of the 2-1 win at Philadelphia on July 10.
“It would be nice to see us go 1-nil down and win,” said Yallop. “I guess it’s concerning, but hopefully we can score first the rest of the season.”
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