Nerves rattled from another late concession, Ryan Nelsen, Toronto FC, and fans alike must brace for more, with a midweek match in San Jose that seems destined for late dramatics.
What TFC are to conceding late, San Jose are to scoring with half – five of ten – goals coming after the 75th minute of play.
April was a cruel month, and May has thus far proven equally so; can Toronto, with their new Argentine midfielder and rumoured acquisitions change their fortunes, or should fans expect more growing pains as the current revolution takes shape.
Either way, a closer look at San Jose is in order.
Coach Frank Yallop has dealt with some significant injury concerns throughout the young season - Marvin Chavez, Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Steven Beitashour, Mehdi Ballouchy, and Jason Hernandez, to name a few, have all missed time this season, while international commitments saw Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez unavailable in one match.
Now it’s suspension that hampers them, as San Jose enters Wednesday’s meeting with a depleted strike-force - both Gordon and Lenhart will be unavailable, suspended for abusive language and a disciplinary committee decision, respectively.
Yallop, through his time of need, has relied on a couple of familiar names to Toronto folk, though only two appear set to feature in the upcoming match.
San Jose is one of a handful of MLS clubs littered with the ghosts of TFC past - Ty Harden, Dan Gargan, Nana Attakora, Sam Cronin, and Gordon all spent time in red.
Their projected lineup is as follows: Jon Busch in goal; from right to left – Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Nana Attakora, and Justin Morrow across the back; Sam Cronin sitting with Marvin Chavez, Rafael Baca, and Shea Salinas across the midfield; rookie sensation Adam Jahn pairs with Chris Wondolowski in attack.
Given the fact that San Jose has a tough weekend match – Saturday at Seattle - it is possible that Yallop could tinker with his first-choice eleven, but it is unlikely, he is more the put-your-best-foot-forward sort of manager, and will see points at home against TFC as a must-win situation.
Marcus Tracy, a highly-rated striker out of Wake Forest who chose to go to Denmark rather than enter MLS – he was selected by Houston in the 2009 SuperDraft – made his long-awaited debut last match as a late substitute with the Earthquakes in search of a goal. It is unlikely he would be thrust into the starting eleven at this point, but he is a candidate should Jahn not start.
The hard-grafting Mike Fucito is another potential starting partner for the ever-present Wondolowski.
Experienced Honduran midfielder, Walter ‘Pery’ Martinez also made his debut for the club against Montreal and could feasibly start in place of Baca, but will likely only come on as a sub.
Former Seattle Sounder, Cordell Cato has played the role of super sub this season, making seven appearances, all from the bench, even scoring the equalizer against Chivas.
Old pro, the last remaining original ‘96er, Ramiro Corrales could give Salinas a rest, if called upon, while Sam Garza and Gargan have found minutes hard to come by in recent weeks.
Harden, Hernandez, and Brad Ring were unavailable on Saturday and are likely still on the sidelines. Ballouchy was recently removed from the disabled list, but is also unlikely to feature.
The Earthquakes have struggled to replicate the form that saw them win the Supporter’s Shield last season. They currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference on eleven points after ten matches.
Their home form in particular has been troublesome, picking up only nine points from a possible eighteen – two wins, three draws, and a single loss.
They are currently riding a six-match winless streak stretching back to a March 23rd win over Seattle.
Draws in their last three matches – home to Portland and Montreal either side of an away match to Chivas – have relied on late heroics in each of those three matches having fallen behind.
On the weekend, a brace from Justin Mapp – very much against the run of play – saw San Jose in a two-goal hole, before Jahn pulled one back at the hour mark and Cronin leveled the score, 2-2, in the 91st minute.
At Chivas, San Jose took the lead through Wondolowski after 40 minutes, only for a four-minute spell at the start of the second half – through Mario de Luna and Tristan Bowen – put the AmeriGoats in the driver’s seat. Cato came through in the end, thanks to some strong play by Attakora and a well-placed pass from Salinas to tie the match, 2-2.
A dramatic, angst-filled home-and-home series against Portland ended with Jahn again making his case to be the latest Goonie – a nickname that will never die - when his 92nd minute goal cancelled an early Diego Valeri strike.
Portland took the first meeting with that lovely Will Johnson free-kick.
Two further losses were inflicted by Salt Lake and Houston, while their other win came over New York in that Roy Miller inspired madness back in round two and draws against Columbus and Vancouver – 1-1 – in each case, round out their results.
The second installment of the series will be available early tomorrow morning - reviewing the available game film, noting their successes, exposing their flaws, and pointing out a few interesting tidbits in the build to tomorrow evening’s match.