June 5, 2011
SANTA CLARA -- The San Jose Earthquakesare currently one of the hottest teams in MLS. Despite the constant changes inpersonnel and formation, one oft-overlooked factor in the hot streak is indeedone of the oldest advantages in sports: home field advantage. After a stumbling start to the season that saw theEarthquakes pick up just two out of an available twelve points at home, theteam has gone on to post three straight home wins, the latest coming with a 2-0win on Saturday evening over the Houston Dynamo. Sandwiched around two draws onthe road, the Earthquakes can now boast a five-game unbeaten streak in MLSplay, extending back to a 1-1 draw at Vancouveron May 11.I like to think were finding a way to get things done athome, explained Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop. We look like we feel confident in front of our fans, feelconfident on the field that were playing on and feel confident that we, nomatter what happens in a game, I dont think we really get too down now, wejust get on with it. The Earthquakes developed a reputation as a fearsomeopponent on the road in the 2010 season, with late season road wins providingthem the necessary points to reach the playoffs despite a few stumbles at BuckShaw Stadium. Another win in New York saw theEarthquakes through to the Eastern Conference final, but they were unable tofind their away day mojo, falling 1-0 at Colorado.
RECAP: Lenhart, Dawkins lift Earthquakes past Dynamo
Since a win at Dallas in thesecond game of the season, however, the Earthquakes have found themselvesunable to collect three points on the road, excepting a 1-0 overtime win in aU.S. Open Cup qualifier at Portland.With the team sinking down the standings early on, though, they have stepped uptheir game at Buck Shaw.Since 2008, where we went on maybe a seven game unbeatenstreak, I think were starting to get our footing here at home andunderstanding how we want to go about our games here, explained Earthquakesdefender Jason Hernandez. I think we had a good game plan, we got intohalftime, made some adjustments, and thats a credit to the coaching staff andcredit to the players to step up and play and really answer the call. An intriguing addendum to the teams recent run of form isthat in their last four MLS games, all nine of the teams goals have come afterhalftime. While the Earthquakes have often struggled in the first half of thesegames, they have excelled at breaking down their opponents in the second half. We didnt panic. Weve actually done that for the pastthree home games that weve won, not played particularly well first half,explained Yallop. Ive not changed too much at halftime. They the playershave figured it out and got out and made the difference in the second half. Hernandez agreed that it was largely incumbent on theplayers to help make the necessary adjustments at halftime. I think it was important for us to come in at halftime andregroup and understand exactly what were trying to do, he explained. I thinkthe second half we came out with a lot more energy, we picked up the tempo andwe were able to get the goal we were looking for. We were fortunate enough tohold them off and get the second one, and thats really the sign of a goodteam. While the players mapped out their adjustments for thesecond half, Yallops task involved motivating Lenhart, the man who would go onto net the game-winning goal. I just tried to focus him at halftime, Yallop explained.I said, Just relax and do your thing. You played well for the last 15 minutesof the first half, continue that and youll get your goal. Lenhart himself was more ambivalent on the subject, saying,I try to work hard, not focus on my nerves, things that I dont need to worryabout. Whether I did that or not in the second half, it was good to get agoal. Whatever did the trick, it has the Earthquakes flying highat home. While there is still plenty of work to be done for the team to climbout of the bottom half of the standings and plenty of time left in the season,the Earthquakes will hope to add a strong home record to their formula forsuccess.For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, youcan follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano