SAN JOSE — Eric Wynalda was in no mood for jokes. Slumped in the corner of the San Jose Clash locker room at Spartan Stadium, the U.S. national team's all-time leading scorer was in a dark mood. Storm warnings flew around him.
The Clash had just lost, 2-1, after a shootout, to the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a near-sellout crowd of 26,184 Sunday afternoon, and Wynalda's anger was apparent. It seemed the perfect time to ask the question.
Would Wynalda like to return south and play for the Galaxy next season, a move that would reunite him with high school teammate Cobi Jones?
"I'd like to go anywhere where I can play football," Wynalda said, a bitter edge to his voice.
Wynalda and Clash Coach Laurie Calloway have had their battles this season, with Calloway once questioning the striker's commitment to the team. Now, Wynalda is questioning how he is being used by the Clash.
"I don't know how I can play 22 games and have only nine goals," Wynalda said. "To have as many good players as we have and to play as poorly as we did doesn't make sense.
"Sooner or later we're going to find out what our strengths are and start using them. Then, maybe we'll be a good team."
This has been a better weekend for the Galaxy (16-11), which ended a five-game losing streak with Sunday's victory, than for Wynalda, who got chewed out by U.S. national team Coach Steve Sampson after Friday night's 3-1 victory over El Salvador at the Coliseum.
Sampson was unhappy at Wynalda's alleged disrespect toward the Central American fans, but Wynalda backed down only halfway Sunday.
"That's his opinion," Wynalda said. "If he feels that way, that's fine. It's my opinion that all those people in the stands were also Americans, which doesn't explain their behavior [in cheering for the El Salvador team]."
The cheers Sunday were mostly for the Clash (13-14), which needed to win to secure a place in the Major League Soccer playoffs. Instead, the game ended in a 1-1 tie and the Galaxy won the resulting shootout, 3-1, with former UCLA Bruin Jorge Salcedo scoring the winner.
It was the Galaxy's third victory in as many games over San Jose this season.
The Galaxy has clinched a playoff spot and now is fighting for home-field advantage, although Coach Lothar Osiander discounts its value.
San Jose played the better first half, with Osiander having elected to rest Jones and Mauricio Cienfuegos, both exhausted after three games in seven days. The Clash created the better chances and finally broke through in the 26th minute on a goal by Missael Espinoza.
Trailing at the half, Osiander was obliged to send in Jones and Cienfuegos, then got a break when San Jose goalkeeper Tom Liner, who had put together a streak of 235 shutout minutes, was knocked unconscious when he dived head-first into the post trying to make a save in the 47th minute.
Liner came out, replacement David Salzwedel came in, and within five minutes the score was tied. As a miss-hit shot by Harut Karapetyan bounced toward the net, Jones sprinted in front of Salzwedel and fired a rising shot that almost took the roof off the net.