Lean times this summer for the San Jose Earthquakes with three regular season losses in a row - all by a 1-0 margin. Earthquakes fans will get an early start to their World Cup Final Weekend with a Friday evening kickoff at 8 PM against DC United at Buck Shaw Stadium. USMNT member Chris Wondolowski was back at training the day after his return flight from Brazil - a working holiday on July 4th. Victor Bernardez is also back from his time with Honduras; he entered in the second half of the 1-0 loss to Chivas USA on July 2.
In his first training appearance after his return from the World Cup, Wondolowski did not shy away from questions from the press about the scoring chance that fell at his feet in the final minutes of the Belgium game. Even though agile Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois instantly closed down the angle on goal, his feet sliding to prevent a daisy-cutter, Wondolowski took responsibility - "I leaned back way too much; I have to finish it." he told Elliott Almond in the San Jose Mercury news. Wondolowski continued "It was such a big moment on such a big stage, but it won't affect my play, it won't affect my mental state. It is going to be a driving force."
While what is now referred to in some circles as The Miss has incurred the ire of many the Twitterverse, closer to home, Earthquakes fans have continued their wholehearted support of their local hero - even if he was not transformed into a national hero. CLS photographer Joe Nuxoll summed it up on our Facebook page "We are bummed that you didn't get the mind-blowing glory that would have come with that goal, which you so totally would have deserved".
The Quakes sure could use Wondolowski's dogged determination, and he's ready and available to start Friday against DC United, who will be no pushover. As the interim skipper Jordan Stewart told the club's web site, having Wondo back "is definitely going to be good for us...I still think we've got strength in depth. It's not like we're getting beat 4- or 5-nil every game. I think it's definitely going to help the spine of the team."
DC United and San Jose had a great 2012 season, and the 5-3 goal-festooned matchup between the two teams is presented for your viewing pleasure by our SB Nation colleagues over at Black and Red United with their Throwback Thursday video. A forgettable 2013 for DC United has been impressively turned around in 2014 with the Eastern Conference-leading 8-5-4 record and 28 points.
Meanwhile, propping up the Western Conference, time is running out for the Earthquakes to make a push for the 2014 playoffs. Wondo will be counted on to provide the offensive spark in the absence of new signings in the summer transfer window that opened up on July 8th. The Quakes (4-7-4; 16 pts) were 3-6-6 at this point in 2013, with one point less than this season, but they rallied back and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker. Absent a 2014 sequel to Shoegate (Shoegate II - House of Ill Reboot) the squad still has enough time to make it.
Whether the Earthquakes leave Buck Shaw at the end of the 2014 season with a playoff run, or the fans gather ourselves for a campaign at the new stadium next year remains to be seen. The good news is that a great deal of progress on the new stadium is visible on this aerial view of the new stadium posted on Twitter via Shane Hagerty:
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