When San Jose visited Colorado two-and-a-half weeks ago, the teams left the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park having combined for as many red cards (one) as shots on target. The 0-0 served as one of the first indications that the diamond formation Pablo Mastroeni had installed in the Rapids’ midfield could send the team in a much more conservative direction.
Tonight in Santa Clara, both teams had a chance to redeem that performance, and by some measures, hey managed to do so. Due in part of San Jose playing more aggressively at home, the teams combined for 11 shots on target, with the Earthquakes nearly claiming an opening goal on three occasions. And with Mastroeni having moved away from the diamond over the last two games, Colorado also played a more open game, with Charles Eloundou and Chris Klute providing width this year’s Rapids had been lacking.
All of which meant nothing at the final whistle. Ninety more minutes, zero more goals, and the Earthquakes and Rapids had played out another scoreless draw. San Jose remains mired near the bottom of the West, their seven points in eight games besting only Chivas USA, while Colorado stays fourth, seven points off league-leading Seattle.
I’ll admit my immediate reaction to this game was “I don’t want to see round three” (Sept. 28, in Colorado). After some time to think about it, these first games feel like two very different, coincidentally 0-0 results. The introductions of Eloundou and Kemani Hill gave the Rapids a completely different look, while San Jose started a new, more balanced midfield (Khari Stephenson and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi as opposed to Sam Cronin and J.J. Koval). Both teams are evolving. There’s no telling what we’ll see in September.
In the interim, Colorado gets a valuable road point, continuing what’s been a strong start. If this team really is evolving, improving as Pablo Mastroeni grows into the head coach’s job, 15 points from nine games will look like a boon come October (particularly since they’ve already played six times within the Western Conference).
For San Jose, the performance is another example of why the team is better than its record (1-3-4). At some point, though, the Earthquakes have to translate their competitiveness on the field into points in the standings. The season’s nearly at the quarter, and while they’re only six points back of a playoff spot, it’s a spot that Galaxy and the Timbers are also on the outside looking in on. The Earthquakes not only have to make up the gap, but they have to outplay three good teams over the next 26 games if they’re to return to the postseason.
The West, as predicted, is hyper-competitive, and while other teams will have spells like San Jose’s, the Earthquakes need to prove theirs is temporary. Form is nice. Points are better.