Quakes can't capitalize, draw Portland 1-1

September 22, 2011, 7:24 am
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As has been the case all too often in 2011, the Earthquakes put in a positive performance but couldnt finish enough chances in Wednesday evenings 1-1 draw at the Portland Timbers. The Earthquakes fell behind to an early goal from Kenny Cooper, but Khari Stephenson fired home his second goal in two games in the 70th minute to give the Earthquakes a share of the points, doing little to advance the teams faltering playoff hopes. Obviously we played well tonight, sometimes you can't put your finger on why, but I thought our players looked very sharp offensively and defensively, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop said. I thought we were great from whistle to whistle. The Earthquakes and Timbers played a very open game for the most part, with both teams recording 19 shots, seven on goal. The Earthquakes, however, were far superior in terms of the amount of possession they controlled, with 64.7 of the ball as opposed to Portlands 35.3. Despite seeing plenty of the ball, though, the Earthquakes could not find the goal they needed to give their playoff hopes a shot in the arm. Sometimes it takes awhile to build the momentum and the players start to really believe in the way we want to play, said Yallop, of the teams ability to maintain possession. There's been a lot of changes and a lot of stuff that's gone on this year that's out of our hands, obviously, but I think that was a true performance that we're capable of and we will play like that in the future. While the Earthquakes advantage in possession started almost from the opening whistle, they were caught on the break in just the ninth minute after Cooper turned home a cross from Darlington Nagbe after Nagbe had gotten behind Bobby Burling. After another scare a few minutes later that saw Nagbes effort well-saved by Jon Busch, the Earthquakes remained unfazed and started to press the Portland backline. We showed great character to come back from that, nine minutes into the game against a team that's very dominant at home and come back into it and play some good stuff and get the reward that we deserve," Yallop added. Despite all the possession and passes San Jose was able to string together, the team wasnt able to make any serious inroads against a strong Portland defense marshaled by goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who made six saves on the night, including one on Simon Dawkins in the 18th minute after the Englishman had done well to create some space to aim at the near post. The Earthquakes started the second half in similar fashion, seeing much of the ball, but unable to break through against Portland, which would take its MLS-record streak of not conceding to 240 minutes before Stephenson equalized. Rafael Baca set up the Jamaican, who managed to connect on an off-balance shot from outside the area, sending it just past the outstretched Perkins. I was having good possession and good ball movement and Rafa (Baca) got the ball wide and played me inside, Stephenson said of his goal. I was a little off balanced, but I tried to turn and get a good shot off. I didn't connect as well as I wanted but it went in. Chris Wondolowski, the Earthquakes leading scorer this season, had a few good chances shut down by Portland, most notably a glancing head in the 86th minute that Perkins got down low to save at his near post. Wondolowski and Stephenson also had point-blank chances stripped away on either side of halftime after saving tackles from Portland midfielder Diego Chara. While the Earthquakes were able to mange to secure a point on the road against Portland, which possessed a 9-4-2 record at home before the game, it wasnt enough to gain any significant ground in the playoff race. With five games left, the Earthquakes now sit seven points outside the playoffs, meaning they would need to make up significant ground to make the cut. Despite this, Stephenson maintained the teams performances over the past few games indicated that there was still a chance for the Earthquakes to make their second consecutive postseason appearance. We've been playing well for the last 10 games and it's just unfortunate that we haven't won most of them, he said. We are pushing for the playoffs and we are more than capable of winning the next few games.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano