They both entered the season with large expectations, but both the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps currently sit outside the playoff bubble, looking in. You can point to a slew of issues for both clubs, but a failure to score appears to always be at the forefront.
For the Whitecaps, it's a tad more surprising. All systems were go earlier in the season, when Camilo and Kenny Miller appeared able to score at will. Camilo still has a very impressive 14 goals on the season, but he hasn't scored in four matches (he was injured for one, so we'll call it three), and he was completely invisible against FC Dallas, one of the most important matches of the year. While Kenny Miller was more involved in the offense than his Brazilian teammate, he's currently in a four-match drought of his own.
Further down south, the San Jose Earthquakes, an offensive juggernaut last season, have had trouble keeping their attack consistently dangerous. The biggest issue is with their star striker, Chris Wondolowksi, who's having an off-year after scoring an amazing 27 goals last season. A total of 27 goals in 31 starts; those are video game numbers. Still, Wondo has just 8 goals this season, and he hasn't scored in three straight matches.
The strength of San Jose last year was the great supporting cast Wondo had in teammates Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon. All three reached double digits in goal scoring last year, but will be hard pressed to repeat that in 2013. Lenhart has just two goals in 10 starts and hasn't scored in six matches. In addition, Gordon, who scored 13 last year, has just 4 goals this season, and two of those came against the LA Galaxy at the end of June. That's just two goals since then. After breaking a four-match scoring slump against Sporting Kansas City near the end of August, Gordon has gone a modest two matches without tickling twine.
Get this; last MLS regular season, the Earthquakes were shut out just twice. This season? It's already happened 10 times, and we're not even done yet.
Given how much talent both of these squads employ, it's tough to figure out what the heck is going on. In the case of the Earthquakes, you could make a generalization and say because Wondo isn't scoring as much, there just isn't as much room and opportunity for his two teammates, but that wouldn't exactly be taking a magnifying glass to this thing.
However in the case of the Whitecaps, we can say that the lack of a second attacking midfielder may be taking its toll. We saw how little the 'Caps could generate against Dallas when Nigel Reo-Coker was on the backline, because they simply don't have many other options at midfield. (Plus, Johnny Leveron was there for some god-awful reason) Matt Watson appears to be making a case for himself, but his game is hard work and defensive responsibility first, attacking second. Daigo Kobayashi was supposed to fill that void, but hasn't delivered the way he was supposed to. While that clearly isn't the whole issue, it has to be troubling for Martin Rennie.
So, don't expect a goal-athon when these two clubs do battle this weekend. In their two previous meetings this season, San Jose has scored one goal, while the 'Caps have done marginally better with three.
They're two teams that should be doing better, but aren't - teams with bonafide stars that aren't getting the job done. With the elite teams beginning to separate themselves in the Western Conference, these two former playoff teams are very likely going to be left in the dust.