Strong's Notes: Stare Decisis

John Strong examines a solid 'Quakes team and how the Timbers will look to beat them

San Jose Earthquakes, 2012

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)

After Saturday’s disheartening 3-0 loss in Colorado, the Timbers return home, on short notice, to take on the hottest and most remarkable team in MLS right now, the San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 pm PT; KPTV Fox 12Timbers Television Network750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940). It might seem a difficult combination of previous result and upcoming opponent, but the Timbers have a knack for pulling off something special at JELD-WEN Field; they’ll need that kind of magic Tuesday to avoid a third loss in four games.

“Goonies Never Say Die”
That line from the movie filmed in Astoria in the mid-80s has become a rallying cry for one of the most incredible runs in MLS history. Starting with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake on April 21, courtesy of two goals in stoppage time, the Earthquakes have seen eight of their last 11 games decided in the 84th minute or later, a record of 5-1-2. The most stunning was a 3-2 win over the Galaxy last month, the first time since 2003 a team came back from 2-0 down in the final 15 minutes to win; though almost more entertaining was their 4-3 win over the Galaxy on Saturday, when they were down 3-1 late in the first half.

The Earthquakes have come-from-behind in seven of their 11 wins this year; they’ve won four games in stoppage time; of the seven wins in MLS this season by a team that was down at halftime, the Quakes have three; all of this adds up to the best record in MLS, and a wins total that already surpasses that of last season.

The Goonies Cast List
So who are these Houdinis of MLS? It starts with Chris Wondolowski: himself one of the most unlikely stars of recent times, his 14 goals in 15 games lead MLS, and he’s scored in each of his last three games. Steven Lenhart—billed as “the missing piece” when acquired last year, only to miss half of the season after his father’s sudden death—is a handful for defenders as his strike partner. Alan Gordon, the 2004 A-League Rookie of the Year as a Timbers cult hero, has scored five goals off the bench this year; two of them game-winners, the other two snatching draws in the final minutes.

The Earthquakes as a whole admit they don’t really like having to come back all the time, but they’re happy to play the role. That said, San Jose will be a bit shorthanded for Tuesday’s game though: goalkeeper Jon Busch will sit out after injuring his eye Saturday against the Galaxy, though former Cal Bear David Bingham has fared admirably in two recent appearances. Defender/midfielder Ramiro Corrales, the last active playing remaining from MLS’ inaugural season in 1996, is suspended because of yellow card accumulation—same as the Timbers’ Diego Chara, who will sit in the stands alongside Hanyer Mosquera, serving the last of this three-game ban.

Stare Decisis
So, against this type of team, with this type of momentum, and coming off such a flat 90 minutes in Colorado poses a real challenge for the Timbers? They can take solace in that they’ve done this before:

April 30 of last year, coming off a 3-0 loss at the LA Galaxy, the Timbers returned home and ended Real Salt Lake’s second-best-in-MLS-history 18 game unbeaten run with a 1-0 win. August 3 of last year, after collapsing to a 2-2 home draw with Toronto, it was the Galaxy’s 2011-high 14 game unbeaten run that ended at the hands of a 3-0 pounding in Portland. April 21 of this year, after a 3-1 Timbers loss in Los Angeles, Sporting Kansas City rode the second-best start in league history into JELD-WEN Field, and rode back out 1-0 losers.

The Timbers would readily admit it’d be easier not to have such spectacular swings in fortune for headline-grabbing wins, but like their upcoming opponents, they’d be happy to once again play the part.