Playoffs out of reach, but drama not over

Playoffs out of reach, but drama not over
October 5, 2011, 11:11 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- The Earthquakes didnt even take the field on Tuesday night, yet found themselves quietly eliminated on a night when the American soccer world was focused on events well outside the Bay Area. In New York, the Red Bulls hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy and duly won 2-0, a result that opened an insurmountable gap between the Earthquakes and the playoff spots. The Earthquakes currently have 32 points, with Houston and New York sitting in the last two playoff berths with 43 points each. With three games remaining, even the maximum nine points would put them at 41 points, just shy of the playoffs. We have no one to blame but ourselves, Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski told CSNBayArea.com. We were put in that position and anytime you need help its never a good situation, so were definitely frustrated about that, but thats not going to change our outlook on these last three games.

Despite their elimination from the playoff race, the Earthquakes will have plenty to focus on as the season draws to a close. Head coach Frank Yallop highlighted that he is not expecting anything different from his players and that he expects the team to build on the positive play it has shown in starts and fits over the past couple months. We have to make sure we are trying to the right things and making sure that we have a good end to the season, Yallop said to CSNBayArea.com. Again, weve played pretty well the last few months, couple of months, and I think that needs to continue in the next three games. In addition to finishing the season strong and playing well, there is another, more tangible story surrounding the Earthquakes: Wondolowskis pursuit of a second consecutive Golden Boot, awarded to the top scorer in MLS. The Danville native is currently tied with two other players for second place in scoring charts, with 12 goals to his name. D.C. United attacker and ex-Earthquake Dwayne De Rosario and New Yorks Thierry Henry are currently tied for the lead with 14 goals apiece. However, Wondolowski downplayed the importance of his chase for the scoring title. Its just one of those things that when you start thinking about it, you wont score, so you just have to go out there and play hard and hope that you can create some opportunities and finish them, so thats the plan, he said. Wondolowski has thrived most in front of goal when given good service by his teammates, but insisted that regardless of what the players around him are doing, the onus was on him to get the ball in the back of the net. You just have to let it come, try and play as good soccer as you can and chances will come and its on me to finish them, he added. For his part Yallop maintained that Wondolowski would continue to start, but not simply because of his quest for another scoring title. Wondos earned his right to play, so hell play, probably all the games running until the end of the season, Yallop said. It would be nice if he could get the Golden Boot again. Its better when you win it in a winning season and you go into the playoffs with that tally, but hes done well. While Yallop indicated last week that he would likely stick close to the lineups he has fielded in the past month or two, on Wednesday he indicated the possibility of starts ahead for some of the teams younger players as well as some of those who are recovering from injury. Theres not a ton of players available, but well see, Yallop said, referring to his teams struggle with injury throughout the season. I might give some young guys a start here and there, but well see. When prompted about the situations of some of his injured players, Yallop highlighted two players in particular. Forward Alan Gordon was acquired from Toronto FC in July, but only managed to feature in two matches before undergoing surgery to repair torn muscles. Promising defender Ike Opara, meanwhile, has missed the better pat of two seasons through injury, including a large chunk 2011 because of a foot injury. Alans got a chance, but Ikes one that were not too sure on right now he said. We wont risk them though only if theyre 100 well play them. While their absence from the playoff chase could diminish the thrill of the final games of the season for many, there is still plenty to see from the Earthquakes, whether its Wondolowskis charge for a second scoring title or simply an indication of what the team will do to avoid a similar situation in 2012.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

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