Earthquakes, Union play to scoreless draw

July 10, 2011, 5:34 am
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. After a disappointing midweek outing in Los Angeles, theEarthquakes returned to Buck Shaw Stadium, only to find more frustrationwaiting for them in the form of the Philadelphia Union. For the fourth time infive games, the opposition defense held the Earthquakes scoreless, and whilethe Quakes did the same to a dangerous Union team, they were frustrated withtheir efforts going forward. I thought it was a lot better performance than Chivas. Ithought at times we played OK, but then we couldnt sustain it, said headcoach Frank Yallop, after the game. I think were just kind of misfiring alittle bit, not just in front of goal, because were not really getting to thefront of goal that much. The most telling stat of the evening was plain to see on thestats sheet the Earthquakes only managed one shot on goal, while the Union managed to test Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch six times,taking more than twice the number of shots the Earthquakes did.The Earthquakes found themselves continually frustrated inpossession by the Union, who defended deep andused their forwards to constantly hound the Earthquakes defenders, forcing theminto a number of miscues. After similar frustrations against the Los AngelesGalaxy and Chivas USAin previous games, Yallop admitted that it was an area of trouble for the team.We tend to struggle against teams that defend deep, hesaid. It seems that weve not quite figured how to play as a unit to play anyteam thats down, or if they sit back. In large part because of that deep defensive line, anotherglaring stat was to be found in Chris Wondolowskis zero shots. In the 11 gamesprior to his departure for U.S.national team duty, he regularly tested opposition defenses, averaging overthree shots per game. In the three games he has played since, he has managedjust one shot per game. Yallop attributed those struggles in part to the teamsplay, referring to Wondolowski as not a creator of shots, but a finisher ofchances. Wondolowski, however, acknowledged that it is a part of hisgame he needs to work on. Myself, I need to do a better job of finding space, I haventbeen doing that, I need to work harder out there, he said. I need to fight andif I battle and scrap for some of those second balls then that opens up andcreates some more space. The Earthquakes did find themselves without a vital tool totheir creation of chances, as striker Steven Lenhart missed out throughsuspension for an accumulation of yellow cards. Lenharts ability to battlewith defenders and lay off balls to players like Wondolowski and Simon Dawkinshas proved vital to creating dangerous opportunities throughout much of theseason, and his play was noticeably absent in the final third. I feel that anytime youre without Lenny its a huge blow,youre missing a big part of this team, Wondolowski said, noting that itwasnt just his play that made Lenhart a valuable asset. We for sure missedhim, his battling, his attitude, its just contagious, and you want to go outthere and you want to fight and battle even harder. Though the Earthquakes did miss a vital cog in their attackon Saturday evening, fans also got to see a new face going forward in the shapeof Mexican midfielder Rafael Baca. Baca, a Mexican-born creative midfielder whoplayed his college soccer at Loyola Marymount, finally signed with theEarthquakes after spending the season training with the team, waiting for hispaperwork to go through to allow him to officially sign. Hopefully I can provide more of an attack and some goals. Iwork hard at practice to get in sync with these guys, Baca said. While I wasout there, I got a feel for the player on top and saw that they wanted toscore. If the Earthquakes are to jump-start their sputteringoffense, Baca could indeed provide that little extra something, but for themeantime, its about looking ahead. Its easy criticizing after, I never do that, Yallop said.I work on the next game and Im not worried about us not scoring, Im justgoing to work on trying to get a win the next game.For more Earthquakes, MLS and general soccermusings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter @nicholasrosano