In this week’s installment of The Rundown, we take a look at the surging San Jose Earthquakes, the historic losing streak of the San Francisco 49ers and the uncertain future of the San Jose Sharks, even after getting off the schneid. First, a few questions:
- Did the San Francisco 49ers find their franchise quarterback Sunday in C.J. Beathard? One thing is for certain: The rookie out of Iowa gives a little hope to a now-woebegone franchise looking to recapture its past glory. With a 26-24 loss to the Redskins, the Niners (0-5) became the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or less.
- Will the San Jose Earthquakes make the MLS Cup playoffs? They took a big kick in that direction with a 1-1 draw Sunday at Vancouver. But can you really be surging with a draw?
- Wherefore art thou Joe Thornton?
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Forget for a moment that Beathard was tough in the pocket and breathed life into a 49ers team that was on life support against the Redskins before his second-quarter insertion into the lineup. Beathard has bloodlines, coming from a family of notable names who’ve done big things in their respective industries.
To wit: His grandfather, Bobby, is a former NFL general manager. Beathard’s father, Casey, is a country songwriter who has co-written six No. 1 songs, including “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney. Beathard also has a brother, Tucker, who is a rising country music singer. Of course, none of that guarantees his own success in the NFL.
Beathard’s development could go a long way in shaping the future of the franchise. If he can show he’s got the chops to become a legitimate starting QB, the 49ers might not have to draft a signal-caller or spend a fortune on pending free agent Kirk Cousins. Instead, the team would be able to use the draft to fill glaring holes at other positions—read, every position on the field—while spending some of their massive cap space on other big-name free agents.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Things couldn’t have worked out any better Sunday for the Quakes. Not only did they get a hard-earned point on the road—playing away from Avaya Stadium has been an Achilles’ Heel all season—but they also received a huge boost when FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake—San Jose’s main competitors for the sixth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference—both lost.
The Earthquakes now control their playoff destiny entering the regular-season finale against Minnesota United FC on Oct. 22 at Avaya Stadium. The Quakes (12-14-7) are tied with Dallas (10-10-13) with 43 points but hold the tiebreaker because they have more wins. A victory would clinch San Jose’s first playoff berth since 2012.
San Jose’s chances looked all but dead before Vako’s goal in the 77th minute—a beautiful chip from the right side of the penalty area.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
First, the good news. San Jose picked up its first win of the season last Thursday, a 3-2 decision over Buffalo. Now the bad: The Sharks followed up that game two days later with a demoralizing 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders. At 1-3, things don’t get any easier for the Sharks, who play Montreal at SAP Center on Tuesday before embarking on a road trip that features five games over nine days.
The Sharks rank near the bottom of the NHL in scoring—they’ve tallied only four even-strength goals in four games—and they aren’t creating odd-man rushes. They’re also not finishing the few quality scoring chances that have come their way. Take all of that away, and they’re doing great.
Going forward, can Joe Thornton continue to be the player he was Sunday against the Islanders, when he was strong on the puck and showing flashes of yesteryear? Or will Thornton revert back to the form of the first three games, when he looked like a 38-year-old coming off of a devastating knee injury? Stay tuned.
SAN JOSE BARRACUDA
The Barracuda followed up a season-opening win with back-to-back losses to Grand Rapids and San Antonio. Against Grand Rapids last Friday, San Jose was discombobulated in every facet of the game, suffering a 7-3 whipping to the same team that eliminated the Barracuda last spring in the Western Conference Finals.
A 3-2 defeat to San Antonio was no less disheartening, as San Jose allowed a goal with less than two minutes remaining to fall in heartbreaking fashion. However, Barracuda goalie Antoine Bibea made an admirable 35 saves in the loss.
The Barracuda play Stockton on Wednesday at SAP Center before closing out the week with a two-game set at Cleveland on Saturday and Sunday.