Last year, the San Jose Earthquakes were as well oiled a machine as MLS had to offer. Their 19-6-9 record topped the league. Frank Yallop won Coach of the Year honors. And striker Chris Wondolowski’s record-tying 27 goals earned him the MVP trophy.
But the Earthquakes crashed out early in the playoffs, then replaced Yallop with assistant Mark Watson earlier this month after a slow start to 2013. While their struggles don’t rival those of D.C. United (1-11-3), the Earthquakes (4-6-6) have just two wins in their past 12 games going into their visit to RFK Stadium on Saturday.
One culprit? The slumping Wondolowski, who has just five goals and none since May 8. But United’s respect for the striker hasn’t wavered.
“You can’t give him a chance,” defender Ethan White said. “He’s still Wondo. Whether he’s in form or not, you’ve still got to be aware he can score at any time.”
For United, one key to holding the Earthquakes in check will be set piece defense. D.C. has allowed 13 goals on such opportunities this season, and bruising strikers Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon combine with Wondolowski to offer tough matchups in the box.
“It’s a big focus every week,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “This year it hasn’t been one of our strong suits. So we just have to stay focused, man up, and we can’t give up goals that way.”