SANTA CLARA -- The Earthquakes have players returning to good health and returning from suspensions. But that didn't mean the struggling soccer team could return to its winning ways Saturday night.

But at least the Earthquakes salvaged a 1-1 tie against the red-hot Colorado Rapids thanks to Marvin Chavez. The Honduran midfielder, who was back after a one-game league punishment, scored on a free-kick rocket in the 78th minute for the equalizer in a game between MLS Western Conference rivals at Buck Shaw Stadium.

"We're still not at 100 percent, but we're pretty close to being at full strength," said Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop. "Now we just need more time together. We're close, but we still don't have complete confidence in each other right now."

Close wasn't quite good enough on a night when a couple of distressing trends continued. The Earthquakes (3-4-6) squandered another chance to come away with a home victory. They're only 3-1-4 at Buck Shaw -- and are about to begin a challenging four-game road swing.

Also, this marked the 10th time in 13 games that they allowed the opponent to score first.

"That's soccer," said forward Alan Gordon. "Sometimes they score before us, and it's happened more often than we would like. But if we give this kind of effort on a consistent basis, more times than not, we're going to come out on top."

Coming off a 4-0 drubbing at Seattle a week earlier, the Earthquakes looked more like themselves -- literally. Chavez returned after a two-week suspension for violent conduct was cut in half by the MLS home office on appeal. Defender Jason Hernandez was back after missing seven games with a calf injury and concussion, and forward Steven Lenhart played as a substitute after being out three games due to a suspension and bruised heel.

But the Rapids, who arrived in the Bay Area on a 4-1-2 roll, struck first. Midfielder Nathan Sturgis somehow eluded the Earthquakes defense to right foot a beautiful corner-kick cross from Martin Rivero past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch at the 26th minute mark.

The Quakes began to intensify the pressure in the second half when Lenhart entered in the 56th minute.

Finally they got on the board when, after Colorado's Shane O'Neill received a yellow card, Chavez converted the free kick with a blast from just outside the box past Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin.