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San Jose Earthquakes aim to fix mistakes with 3 games left in season

It could be the difference in reaching the playoffs.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes faced a setback with Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, but they’re not yet ready to give up on the season.

The Quakes lost their first game in three, after Carlos Fierro gave them the first-half lead but two goals conceded in the second half doomed their prospects on the night.

While San Jose have not coughed up many leads this season to drop points, captain Chris Wondolowski said there’s a worrying trend the team needs to correct before it’s too late.

“I do think that we need to fix our mistakes,” Wondolowski told reporters during the postgame press conference. “I think we’ve played well and I think it’s our M.O. over the last six or seven games, but five- or 10-minute lapses here and there and some of the better teams have been able to punish us, especially in a cluster. It’s definitely hurt us. Once we let up a goal we need to regroup, stay focused and stay the course. Once we get punched in the nose we don’t know what to do. It takes us a little time to find our feet again and get going. We need to be, from the kickoff, ready to go again.”

San Jose head coach Matias Almeyda agreed that mistakes were made, but he also pointed to his team changing their approach ever so slightly in the second half as the win slipped away.

“I think we started to miss having control of the game,” Almeyda said via an interpreter postgame. “We started to miss passes, and then when we had combinations with our fullbacks and wide players, we knew that through the middle, low balls or sprayed long balls wouldn’t make a difference there. We knew that we should not commit fouls close to our box. But it’s football. Sometimes it happens and the opposition took advantage of those five minutes.”

Aside from the six-minute stretch when Vancouver scored their goals, courtesy of an Ali Adnan free kick from way downtown and a tap-in by Tosaint Ricketts, Almeyda said he didn’t think the Earthquakes’ mistakes were mental.

“I don’t know if it was a lapse of concentration,” he said. “It was a lapse of we stopped doing what we were doing in the first half, because it was not 45 minutes, they were seven or eight minutes. Credit to the opponent, and there was little relentlessness on our part to kill the game when we were up 1-0.”

The Earthquakes are now at a critical point in the season. They are in the final playoff position in the Western Conference, but have just three games left to play in the regular season. Plus, some other teams either have games in hand or games to make up that may not be played due to a schedule crunch, which means total points may not ultimately decide the playoff teams. If points per game determines the playoff teams, the Quakes would drop below the playoff line at present.

Wondolowski said that the team’s inability to avoid mistakes and when they are made, to overcome them, have continually haunted them.

“Even last year, that was our bugaboo. We better have learned from last year. We better have learned from these mistakes this year. To be honest, I’m not too excited we’re making a lot of the same ones. We got to be better,” he said.

With time running out, Wondo admitted he’s trying to find an answer to earn as many of the nine points available to his team as possible.

“That’s the million dollar question, what we need to do. That’s on myself as captain, veteran, make sure guys are ready for the moment, ready to step up, ready to take that moment on. I think we’ve been playing well. I’m not sure if we just get a little tight, a little nervous. I can’t put my finger on it but I hope we figure it out soon,” he said.

While Almyeda certainly wasn’t pleased with Saturday’s loss, he vowed to keep the faith and battle to the final whistle to extend the Earthquakes’ campaign into the postseason.

“Our way of being is going to be the same way, the same way when we were losing and the way we’re carrying ourselves when we’re winning, it’s the same mentality. After last match and the match before that we’re trying to finish this season in the best way we can and there’s three decisive games left. In two weeks we could be on vacation or we could continue for a bit more. As long as we have our chance we will fight until the last second,” he said.

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