Providence park has not been kind to the San Jose Earthquakes this year: in three trips to the City of Roses they've taken home three losses and just one goal. This time around, the 2-0 defeat sent the team crashing out of the US Open Cup, keeping alive the truly staggering streak of never having defeated an MLS side (or any first-division side, for that matter) in the history of the competition.
With Copa America commitments still ongoing and a road trip to Orlando on the horizon for the weekend, the Quakes sent out a cumbersome starting XI that included Innocent wide right, rookie Matheus Silva as a center-back, and a smattering of reserves. To underscore the lack of available bodies, three goalkeepers were named to the match day 18 for the second time in June, although star defender Clarence Goodson made his first appearance on the list since Week 2.
And on the other side of the coin, the draw was an unfortunate one. The fixture was the only one to include two MLS sides, the Quakes had the misfortune of having to hit the road for it, and they have to fly to Orlando for an away game just 4 days later. The Timbers, with fewer international call-ups and a USL side available for selection to the first team, had a more favorable set-up for cup competitions to start with.
In the early going, predictably, there were a slew of nervy moments. But after the Quakes survived them, they managed a few intrepid moments going forward of their own, including the enigmatic Innocent blazing past his marker and working down the end line before cutting it back to Shea Salinas, only for Salinas to completely bundle the finish in the 9th minute. Not to be outdone, Tommy Thompson in the 16th minute worked with his back to goal and delicately laid one off for striker Chad Barrett at the top of the 18, only for the former Sounders man to fail so spectacularly to make contact that it may as well have bounced off a rough part of the pitch.
The hosts, for their part, were generating nearly constant danger through the incomparable Diego Valeri, but his teammates struggled to match his level and frequently left the chances wanting just as badly as their opponents. The breakthrough came in the 34th minute, with a bizarre sequence that began with a Jack Barmby cross that Silva's intervention fairly well snuffed out. Unfortunately, his tackle bounced the ball right off of Jack McInerney and fortuitously to the feet of Dairon Asprilla, whose slow-paced tap-in managed to elude Bryan Meredith. McInerney, well offsides for the finish, appeared to possibly interfere with Meredith or Silva's ability to clear the ball off the line as it rolled in, but the flag stayed down, and the hosts went up 1-0.
Just 6 minutes later, McInerney left no doubt about the goal when he fired a 23-yard free kick from the left channel over the wall and past Meredith, splashing the net in what felt very much like a knockout punch against a side that was already struggling to retain control. While perhaps Thompson and Sarkodie showed a bit of quality on the night, it was sorely lacking anywhere else, and it wasn't for another half hour of game time before San Jose managed another serious threat on goal in the form of an excellent low Salinas cross in the 71st minute that Perez-Garcia ultimately could not get much of a hold of.
No progress would be made beyond that point as the match tilted toward more ill-will between the two sides that are no doubt tired of seeing each other after four contests in just 3 short months. The only saving grace, perhaps, was an excellent sprint and close down by Marvell Wynne of Darren Mattocks in stoppage time that prevented the score from getting worse. As the whistle blew, the Quakes players, almost to a man, stood still wherever they had ended up on the pitch, hands on hips, heads hung, with a look of genuine devastation that signaled a definitive low point in this still-early season.
Knocked out of the Cup, with internationals Anibal Godoy, Alberto Quintero, and Kip Colvey returning, and the possibility of Simon Dawkins regaining health, the squad will travel to Orlando at the weekend to redeem themselves and rediscover their lost momentum that has seen them trudge through 270 consecutive minutes without a goal.