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Earthquakes go cold in KC, lose 2-0 to Wizards

The Earthquakes first road trip of 2009 was one to forget, as San Jose lost 2-0 to the Kansas City Wizards on a wintery, wet and windy Sunday afternoon.

“We played terrible” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop told the TV audience as he watched his team struggle with the elements. The game time temperature was 38 degrees, and with a persistant wind blowing through CommunityAmerica Ballpark San Jose looked cold and miserable all day, needing 81 minutes to manage their first shot on goal. By that time, Kansas City had scored through Aaron Holhbein and Claudio Lopez, and were cruising to their first win of the year.

“We need to be prepared for games like this,” midfielder Simon Elliot said after the game. “They adjusted well to the conditions and we didn’t. You have to be ready for a game with a lot of turnovers and transition play on a day like this. They came out ready and created opportunities and we were slow to the ball.”

The Earthquakes began with same 11 that’s started the first two games of the season, but this team showed little resemblance to the squad that beat Houston the previous week. Kansas City controlled the run of play, and created a couple of chances in the first 20 minutes that should have put the Wizards ahead.

In the 6th minute, a long throw in by Kansas City was flicked on to Claudio Lopez near the left post, but his left footed effort missed badly. In the 20th minute, KC broke out 3-on-2, with Lopez bringing the ball down the right wing. He set up Josh Wolff for an open shot from 15 yards out that missed wide left.

Kansas City’s first goal was as ugly as the weather. In the 28th minute, a corner kick by Lopez sailed to Davy Arnaud. His shot from the right side of the penalty area hit a crowd in front of goal, and when San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon couldn’t collect the loose ball, Jimmy Conrad took a swipe at it. His shot rebounded off Cannon and fell to Aaron Holhbein, who banged it in from point blank range.

The only sign of life from San Jose in the first half came in the 35th minute, when Darren Huckerby stole the ball in midfield and carried it into the penalty area. Huckerby pulled it back for Cam Weaver, but Weaver’s weak shot was easy cleared away by the Kansas City defense.

Meanwhile, the Wizards kept on coming. Joe Cannon had to stretch to save Davy Arnaud's 20 yard effort just before intermission. In the first minute of the second half, Cannon had to dive to his right to punch away Lopez’s shot from the top of the penalty area. When the Earthquakes did a poor job clearing a Lance Watson cross a minute later, Jake Jewsbury let fly from 25 yards, slamming his shot off the crossbar.

Yallop, looking to shake up his side, brought on Simon Elliot for Eric Denton in the 51 minute, moving Bobby Convey to the left side of a 3-5-2 formation. The change resulted in a brief spark; Elliot pounced on a loose ball and fired wide left from 30 yards out, before Huckerby teed up Arturo Alvarez for a shot from just inside penalty area that sailed high.

Yallop kept looking for offense, replacing Ryan Johnson with Pablo Campos in 59th minute, and taking out Huckerby for Shea Salinas in the 74th, but those moves did little to change the story line.

Kansas City put the match away in the 78th minute. Hercules Gomez knocked a long ball to Claudio Lopez breaking down the left side, and Lopez fired a low, hard shot from 15 yards that beat Cannon cleanly inside the right post.

“We just did not a have a good day today, especially in the first half,” Frank Yallop said. “(The Wizards) had enough chances to be up two or three goals at the half. We had a good spell in the second half, but that second goal just killed off the game.”

In the 81st minute the Earthquakes managed their first shot on goal as Alvarez worked down the right wing, but his shot from a tight angle was an easy save for the Wizards’ Kevin Hartman. San Jose did little else to bother the Kansas City goalkeeper, and were shut out for the second time in three matches this year.

“We need to be more consistent game to game,” Yallop said. “We were not sharp enough today and I am not going to blame the conditions. (The Wizards) were able to create chances despite the wind.”

The Earthquakes now prepare to host the Chicago Fire next Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium.