In this weekâs installment of The Rundown, we take a look at the playoff-bound San Jose Earthquakes,Â a pseudo NFL franchiseÂ in Santa Clara and the steady play of Sharks winger Tomas Hertl. First, a few questions:
- If you were within two blocks of Avaya Stadium on Sunday, you surely heard the roar of theÂ Ultras and otherÂ Quakes fans after Marco Urena scored in the third minute of stoppage time to clinch the teamâs first playoff berth since 2012. Now we have to ask: Can the Quakes ride their hot streakÂ deep into the MLS Cup Playoffs?
- The San Francisco 49ers (0-7) areÂ almostÂ halfwayÂ to a defeated season. Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch were both signed to six-year contracts, but what positivesÂ will they draw from a lost first season?
- After scoring 29 goals last year, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is still searching for his firstÂ of the newÂ season. In the words of Eminem, will the real Brent Burnsâthe reigning Norris Trophy winnerâplease stand up?
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Absolute bedlam. Thatâs the only way to describe Avaya Stadium after Urenaâs goal led the Quakes to a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United, capping a wild sequence thatÂ lifted hometown fans from downright depression into a state of unmitigated euphoria. Minnesota scored a goal to tie the game 2-2 in the 81st minute, and it looked as if the Quakesâ playoff chancesÂ had all but evaporated.
ButÂ then Urenaâwho was inserted into the game in the 88th minuteâscored to lock up the win and the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. The QuakesÂ face No. 3 Vancouver (15-12-7) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. San Jose has reason for optimism, as the last two MLS Cup champions started their run to glory in the knockout round.
âThis game was an epitome of the season for us, in the sense where weâve had some ultimate highs and some lows where youâre reeling and gut-checked,â Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski told the official MLS website after the match. âItâs a time to look in the mirror and see what youâre made of. And our guys showed up.â
SAN JOSE SHARKS
At 3-4, San JoseÂ gotten off to a decidedlyÂ mediocre start. Fortunately for the Sharks,Â they have plenty of time to coalesce into a playoff contender. TheÂ team recorded wins over Montreal and New Jersey last week before suffering a 5-3 loss Saturday to the New York Islanders. The Sharks continue their East Coast swing with a game against the New York Rangers today at 4pm. Highlights from last week included Logan Couture notching the second hat trick of his career inÂ a loss to the Islanders,Â while goalie Martin Jones producedÂ his best performance of the season in a 3-0 win over the Devils.
Going forward, can Tomas Hertl continue hisÂ ascent as a cornerstone franchise player? Since being moved to the left wing on the teamâs second line in the third game of the season, Hertl has created myriad scoring chances for teammates.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
When the San Francisco 49ers lost five straight games by three points or less, one couldÂ have argued thatÂ they were headed in the right direction. After a 40-10 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on Sundayâone of the worst home defeats in franchise historyâthat argument is moot. The teamâs latest loss confirmed what many already knew: the 49ers are basically an expansion team that needs twoÂ or three drafts and free agency classes to rebuild the least talented roster in the NFL.
San Francisco plays the red-hot Eagles (5-1) on Sunday, followed by games against the Cardinals (3-4) and Giants (1-6). Forget the playoffs. The 49ersâ only goal should be to win one or two and remain competitive in the teamâs final nine games.
SAN JOSE BARRACUDA
In a 5-2Â victory over Stockton last Wednesday, San Jose (3-3) forward Danny OâRegan recorded his second two-goal, three-point game of the season. Last yearâs American Hockey League Rookie of the Year has been as good as advertised this season, leading theÂ clubÂ with four goals.
If moving players on to the NHL is theÂ whole point of minor league hockey franchises, the Barracuda are certainly getting the job done. Six of the Barracudaâs top seven scorers from a year agoâJoakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Carpenter, Kevin Labanc and Timo Meierâare now playing with the Sharks.
The Barracuda play the San Antonio Rampage on Friday and the Texas Stars on Saturday to close out October.