HOME RUN OVER FOR QUAKES. San Jose knows well the cost of blowing leads. A bleak run of just two points in three consecutive home games that it led, 1-0, helped scuttle San Jose’s playoff hopes last year. Playing at Avaya Stadium in three of its first four games in 2016 prompted head coach Dominic Kinnear to put a high priority on a strong start at home.
The 1-1 tie with United courtesy of a late Adam Jahn goal preserved the Quakes’ unbeaten home record (2-0-1) and gave them seven points in those three home matches against Colorado, Portland, and D.C. Four of the next six are on the road, starting Saturday in Frisco, Texas, against FC Dallas, which won the regular-season conference title last year.
In early September of last year, the Quakes took 1-0 leads against Philly, Seattle and Montreal at brand-new Avaya Stadium and failed to win any of those games. They lost to the Union, 2-1, and tied the other two games, 1-1. After those three results, the Quakes were in seventh place, which is where they finished four points out of the playoff tier.
“When I look back at last year, that run really hurt our chances,” says Kinnear. “We had the lead in all of those games and if we win two of them, or even get five points with a win and those two ties, we’re right there going into the final games of the season. But we couldn’t seem to get that second goal. We can’t let that happen this year. You always fight for points on the road, of course, but the home games, you have to win.”
CHANGES ADD UP TO SOUNDERS’ FIRST W. There’s more at play regarding Seattle’s early-season struggles than the departure of Obafemi Martins, but losses are losses, and after tweaking a few elements on Saturday head coach Sigi Schmid got the victory that stopped a three-game skid.
Schmid slid Clint Dempsey -- who had been playing on the wing in a 4-3-3 -- into the middle behind striker Nelson Valdez, and pushed Andreas Ivanschitz to the left side in a 4-2-3-1 alignment. Aaron Kovar got his first MLS start on the other wing and Jordan Morris took a spot on the bench. Morris had returned from U-23 duty so the move made sense from a fatigue standpoint but it’s no secret he’d not been influential as a starter during that 0-3 start.
Morris was on the field when the Sounders scored and by getting in the way of Impact keeper Evan Bush created a hole into which Dempsey soared to head Ivanschitz’s corner kick. Dempsey took four of Seattle’s 12 shots and put three of them on goal; he forced a good save from Bush with a dipping free kick. The offense certainly didn’t sparkle, yet Schmid’s moves did free up his most dangerous attacker.
“I just like being involved in the game, and getting touches on the ball,” Dempsey said. “I feel like if I’m getting touches, I can influence the game. Whatever allows me to get touches and get the ball in the attacking third, that’s the position that I like the most.”
Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso roamed relentlessly to shield the back line and get balls forward crisply, and captain Brad Evans returned to the lineup at centerback for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the season opener. What Schmid does Sunday in Houston will be one of the more intriguing storylines for Week 6.
RAPIDS FOR REAL? Since losing its opener, 1-0, in San Jose, Colorado has won two of three and on Saturday edged Toronto FC, 1-0, thanks to a sublime chip by Marco Pappa and efficient finish from Luis Solignac, who scored his first MLS goal in 18 appearances dating back to last season.
TFC right back Steven Beitashour and several teammates gestured wildly for an offside call but replays indicated Solignac was even with at least two Rapids defenders when Pappa executed one of the most difficult passes in soccer; the straight-ahead chip of a moving ball. It dropped softly and far enough in front of keeper Clint Irwin that Solignac had plenty of time to pick his spot.
Five minutes earlier, a second caution to Benoit Cheyrou had reduced TFC to 10 men, yet during that long man-advantage Colorado was unable to notch a second goal. Still, it hung on to win, and as the league’s second-worst team the past two seasons that is off to a 2-1-1 start, there’s hope it can be in the playoff hunt in 2016 once Jermaine Jones (suspended for two more games) and Tim Howard (under contract with Everton) get into the mix.
BOTTOM FIVE THE PAST TWO YEARS. From the bottom up, the worst five records in 2014 and 2015 -- not counting Chivas USA, terminated by MLS after the 2014 season, and 2015 expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC -- belong to:
TEAM W-L-T POINTS
1. Chicago 14-30-24/66 points
2. Colorado 17-33-18/69 points
3. San Jose 19-29-20/77 points
4. Philadelphia 20-29-19/79 points
5. Houston 22-31-15/81 points<