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San Jose Earthquakes’ road woes continue

Mar 17, 2018; Kansas City, KS, USA; San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell (28) warms up before a match against Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes own the worst road record in Major League Soccer over the past two season. Saturday night at Sporting Kansas City, the Quakes capitulated again away from Avaya Stadium in a 3-2 loss. Here are three things we learned from Saturday night’s game.

Defense still work in progress

After surviving a furious comeback by Minnesota United in their season opener, the Earthquakes went to work fixing the problems that allowed the Loons to late goals. Head coach Mikael Stahre had a bye week to work with, and he used the time to schedule extra practices, specifically to address the defensive shortcomings.

Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park, those preparations didn’t show.

“I am really disappointed we conceded that second goal at that point in the game,” Stahre said. “I think we controlled the game really well in that moment, and just a few minutes before they scored we had a great chance. Then we lost the momentum when we conceded the second goal. Then, the score became 3-1 and in that part of the match they controlled the game totally.”

It is well known that Kansas City likes to press opponents and control the ball, but it looked too often as though the Quakes defenders were still in reactive mode. Shea Salinas, especially, had a rough go of it on the left side, as Johnny Russell and Graham Zusi ran rampant on the wing.

On Zusi’s top-shelf stunner to take the lead early in the second half, the Quakes back line looked passive, not stepping up to the ball. It was not an isolated incident either, and Stahre has his work cut out for him to instill more bite in the defense.

You can’t score if you don’t shoot

Chris Wondolowski scored a stunning stoppage time goal Saturday night, giving him his 135th career goal and moving into sole possession of second place on the all-time MLS goal scorers list. But it was the one he missed earlier in the half, when the score was still 1-1, that will be remembered.

“It is a big shot that is still weighing on my mind and will give me some trouble sleeping tonight,” Wondolowski said. “I was a good cross by Magnus [Eriksson], Matt Besler took a little deflection and it put it a little behind me, and it got a little swivel and I missed it. That was a big one.”

Wondolowski doesn’t have a short term memory; rather, he wants to recall the makes and the misses in order to be ready for the next scoring opportunity. In his 13-plus year MLS career, the Quakes’ captain has attempted 779 shots en route to his 135 goals. They’re not all going to go in, he knows, but he’ll never stop trying.

His consolation goal in the 91st minute was a thing of beauty. Magnus Eriksson sent a ball into Wondolowski’s path at the top of the area for the forward to snap one-touch to the far post to make the game 3-2 with a few minutes to go. Classic Wondolowski, and a goal that leaves him only 10 goals behind the all-time leader Landon Donovan.

“I wish we could have won,” Wondolowski said, “but credit to our team and Magnus [Eriksson] for putting that ball in there. To finish it was pretty cool, but hopefully we will get a couple more wins.”

How Swede it is

When Eriksson was signed to a Designated Player in the offseason, he was touted as a player that would give defenders fits. Well, two games into the season, that description has been spot on.

Against Sporting KC on Saturday, the Swedish midfielder was all over the field. He nominally lined up as a right midfielder, but throughout the 90 minutes, he had the freedom to range from sideline to sideline.

Eriksson’s passing rate was acceptable — he completed more passes than he didn’t — but it was the fight he showed to get the ball and retain it that kept Kansas City from overrunning the Quakes. He capped off his man-of-the-match night with the assist to Wondolowski.

In a game that required someone to stand toe-to-toe with Kansas City, Eriksson delivered big time.

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