After extending their home unbeaten streak to seven games with a draw last weekend, the San Jose Earthquakes embarked on a four game MLS road trip with high hopes that they would find their form away from Buck Shaw Stadium. Instead, the Quakes opened with a frustrating 1-0 defeat at FC Dallas that left them with winless in six away games to open the 2013 season.
A first half strike from Fabian Castillo providing the only goal of the game, as San Jose dropped to 0-4-2 on the road in 2013. The shutout loss was the Earthquakes fifth of the season - they have failed to score in all 4 road defeats - as the team was continually frustrated by a stout Dallas defense.
"Obviously we are disappointed not to get something out of the match," said coach Frank Yallop. "We had plenty of chances, especially in the second half but that is just how the season has gone so far. We played pretty well tonight against a pretty good team at home and didn't get anything out of the game."
FC Dallas extended their lead atop the Western Conference standings, and with the 1-0 win against the defending Supporters' Shield winners remained unbeaten at FC Dallas Stadium over 8 matches in 2013. And for a Quakes team that looked the better side for long stretches of the night, it was a simple observation that best explained away the loss.
"They got their one goal that they needed and that was the difference in the game," stated goalkeeper Jon Busch matter of factly.
Courtesy of Castillo's goal, San Jose fell behind for the 11th time in 14 overall matches this season. However, with their backs against the wall, the Quakes stormed back in the second half with numerous scoring opportunities. Star forward Chris Wondolowski was at the center of many of those chances, but he was stymied by Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez on multiple occasions.
"He made some great saves, credit to him," said Wondolowski. "He did a great job and was in the right place and made the saves. I found myself on the end of them and I couldn't finish so it makes it a bit disappointing. Truthfully though, I need to finish those no matter who is in net."
With three more games on their current road trip, plus a midweek match against the Charleston Battery as part of the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup tournament, the Earthquakes risk sliding further down the Western Conference standings if they cannot stem their woeful away record. But despite the mounting pressure to reverse their current course, the Quakes remain hopeful that the best is yet to come in 2013.
"It's definitely frustrating at times but if I didn't have 100 percent faith in this locker room it'd be really frustrating," shared Wondolowski. "I know we're going to turn it around. We've been treading water but now it's time to swim."
"You just keep going," added Busch. "You don't think about records, what we've done at home, what we've done on the road. None of us think about that. You take each game at a time and try to win each game at a time. That's all we're concerned about. Winning games and picking up points."
While scoring more goals is certainly a priority, shoring up their defensive efforts is also an important task for the Earthquakes. After leading MLS in scoring last season and recording a franchise record +29 goal differential, San Jose has seen that number reversed to -7 in 2013. Clearly have work to do on both sides of the ball.
"When you're on the road and you're able to put more shots on target and make the goalkeeper make a bunch of huge saves, you've got to feel good about that," said defender Jason Hernandez. "Unfortunately we just can't seem to keep teams out of the back of the net right now."
The Earthquakes, with only one win in their last nine matches, made one change from last weekend's Starting XI, as rookie Adam Jahn took the place of Rafael Baca in the midfield. Jahn wasted little time getting involved in the match as in the 4th minute he earned a yellow card, his first in MLS, for a sliding challenge on Dallas goalkeeper Fernandez as both players went after the ball in the home side's penalty area.
San Jose had to wait until the 25th minute to get their first scoring chance when Walter Martinez spied Alan Gordon near the far post and floated a cross in his direction. Still looking for his first goal of 2013, after tallying 13 last season, Gordon looped a header back across the target, but Fernandez made a comfortable catch save.
FC Dallas took the lead in the 33rd minute as the Earthquakes were stung on a counterattack following some sustained possession in the opponent's half. Collecting a loose ball and outrunning Jahn down the field, David Ferreira had time and space to pick out Castillo on the right wing. The 20-year old Colombian cut the ball back inside the area and wrong-footed Hernandez before sending a low shot just out of the reach of Busch and inside the far post for a 1-0 FCD lead.
The Earthquakes came close to equalizing in the 41st minute following a free kick opportunity awarded when George John was shown yellow for a tackle on Walter Martinez. The Honduran sent a ball into the area on the restart that Alan Gordon flicked on to Wondolowski inside the six-yard box, but Fernandez punched the ball clear. Victor Bernardez volleyed the loose ball back toward target, but the shot shook the crossbar and caromed away.
San Jose made one change to start the second half as Steven Lenhart entered the game for Gordon. However, it was Dallas that nearly scored to double their lead. In the 53rd minute, Castillo collected the ball at the center line and executed a perfect give and go with Ferreira in the Quakes area, but Busch did well to block the shot from the Colombian.
In the 67th minute, Bernardez saw yellow for a rough tackle on Dallas forward Kenny Cooper that hastened his exit from the game for substitute Eric Hassli. With the caution, Bernardez will miss the Earthquakes next match for yellow card accumulation.
In the 70th minute, Lenhart took an elbow to the nose from John, but referee Hilario Grajeda ruled it incidental contact. Lenhart left the field for treatment, and was shown a yellow card two minutes later for reentering the field of play without permission.
Fighting for an equalizer, the Earthquakes twice tested Dallas ‘keeper Fernandez in the 78th minute, but the Peruvian international was up to the challenge. A long shot from second half substitute Shea Salinas was parried away at the far post early in the play, and a subsequent follow-up shot from Jahn was blocked down.
Salinas continued to use his pace to frustrate the Dallas defenders, and in the 81st minute rescued a ball at the byline and crossed the ball to Wondolowski at the far post. The Quakes MVP volleyed a shot on target, but Fernandez made a desperate reaction save to preserve the FCD lead.
The Dallas defense bunkered in as the Earthquakes urgently pressed for an equalizer over the final 10 minutes of the match. San Jose rolled the dice with the substitution of forward Mike Fucito for defender Hernandez, and the possession arrow titled firmly into the visitor's favor, but the fine work of Fernandez kept the Quakes at bay.
Wondolowski tried his luck with header in the 92nd minute, but Fernandez came up strong again. Three minutes later, FC Dallas celebrated at the sound of the final whistle as they collected their seventh win in eight home games this season.
The Earthquakes, still winless on the road will travel directly to South Carolina for a U.S. Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery on Tuesday night before returning to MLS action next weekend at Real Salt Lake.