GBU Report: Earthquakes Versus Chicago Fire

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The San Jose Earthquakes lost 1-0 to the Chicago Fire on Friday night at Toyota Park on a goal from John Goossens in the 55th minute. The loss raises serious concerns about the Quakes’ potential to make the 2016 playoffs.

The Good

There were very few positives for San Jose after Friday’s loss, but a player that should be recognized for his outstanding play is defender Marvel Wynne. Wynne, who usually plays right-back, played centrally in place of the injured Victor Bernardez. And he proved his mettle with four tackles, seven clearances, and four interceptions, all of which led the team. He also led the team with three successful dribbles. Wynne’s hustle and grit kept San Jose in the game despite the Fire’s 16 shots and 21 crosses.

Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham should also be given credit for his performance despite the goal. Bingham needed to touch the ball 56 times throughout the match, an outrageously high number for a goalkeeper. By comparison, his counterpart Sean Johnson only touched the ball 27 times. The Quakes seemed to be under fire (no pun intended) all night despite leading in overall possession 59%-41%. Bingham was also responsible for six saves. The score could have easily been 2-0 or worse if not for him.

The Bad

The obstacles to a successful Quakes playoff run which were highlighted in May are now in full bloom, most notably the Quakes’ road record. The Quakes are winless on the road (0-5-4) after four months of the 2016 season. A game in Chicago could have cured the road malady and rejuvenated a squad eager for postseason play. Chicago had just two wins all season prior to Friday’s match, and were in last place overall with just 11 points. If there’s ever a time to win on the road, it’s against the league’s last-place team. Yet the Quakes legitimately lost, being out-shot 16-7 (6-2 shots on target), out-chanced 13-4, and out-crossed 21-17. Now the pressure is greater than ever to get three road points and get back into the playoff hunt.

Several players had games they would like to forget, but none more so than midfielder Simon Dawkins. Dawkins had zero key passes, zero crosses, zero through-balls, one shot, an 83% passing efficiency, and only two accurate long-balls. His lack of offensive production reverberated throughout the 90+ minutes as San Jose struggled to find opportunities to score. Defensively, Dawkins was even worse: zero tackles, zero interceptions, zero clearances. Fellow midfielders Alberto Quintero and Matias Perez Garcia tried to do their parts. Quintero had three crosses, two tackles, and a 90% passing efficiency. Perez Garcia had three key passes, four crosses, four tackles, and two interceptions. Dawkins may yet be another Designated Player bust if he continues to be out-shined by his teammates, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Ugly

Plain and simple, the Quakes weaknesses are being exploited. Friday’s loss was the sixth game in which any of the Quakes starters failed to score a goal, counting their US Open Cup match versus the Portland Timbers. The reason is simple: the Quakes rely upon forward Chris Wondolowski too much. Until other Quakes players are a threat to score, all focus will be on Wondo, which is exactly what Chicago did. The Fire swarmed San Jose’s leading goal-scorer, limiting Wondo to zero shots and 27 touches, his worst performance of 2016. Wondo was non-existent, and Friday’s performance echoed their previous four matches without Wondo: zero goals for the starters.

A second weakness that must be addressed is the flat 4-4-2. This was a problem highlighted back in March when the Quakes were in first place. The formation relies upon defenders, but the Quakes roster does not have the defensive depth to sustain it. With injuries to defenders Clarence Goodson, Victor Bernardez, Andres Imperiale, Jordan Stewart, Kip Colvey, and now possibly Fatai Alashe (who sustained a concussion while playing centerback), the Quakes just don’t have the players to run a successful flat 4-4-2. As a result, the Quakes have struggled to produce goals with it until it’s switched via subs. The Quakes have to abandon it, or else face the real possibility that they could continue to fall in the Western Conference standings.

The Earthquakes look to rebound against FC Dallas on Friday, July 8th at home. Serious changes must be made if the Quakes are going to win. I would expect forward Quincy Amarikwa to be taken out of the lineup in favor of Chad Barrett, and possibly see a single-pivot 4-1-4-1 as Fatai Alashe heals from his concussion.

The GBU Report analyzes the good, bad, and ugly performances of the Quakes players and teams after each Quakes match.

SAN JOSE, CA – MARCH 06:  Simon Dawkins #49 of San Jose Earthquakes dribbles the ball against the Colorado Rapids during their MLS Soccer game in the second half at Avaya Stadium on March 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)