SAnTA CLARA -- The goal hasn't changed for the Earthquakes.
They need more goals.
It's that simple as San Jose plays host to last-place Chivas USA on Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Quakes (4-6-4) enter the midweek contest hoping to end a two-game scoreless streak in Major League Soccer competition. They have scored a paltry 15 goals in 14 league games this season, falling to eighth place in the Western Conference standings just ahead of Chivas (3-7-5).
Coach Mark Watson blames the inconsistency in part because injuries have forced him to change lineups almost weekly.
"It affects things a little bit," he said.
It sure did Saturday in a 1-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy. With left wing Shea Salinas out, Watson elected to fill the spot with Sam Cronin. Normally a holding midfielder, Cronin did his best."I thought I was mediocre," he said Monday.
His assessment was too harsh, considering how Cronin tried to cover much of the field to help shore up the defense as well as create scoring opportunities.
But Cronin was a Band-Aid instead of a solution. Watson might consider using natural wings Cordell Cato on the left and Atiba Harris on the right side of the midfield against Chivas.
Another possibility is moving Yannick Djalo of Portugal to the wing and using Billy Schuler or Mike Fucito as a withdrawn striker behind Steven Lenhart.
Whatever he decides -- he won't disclose his lineup until hours before the game -- Djalo is the main ingredient to stir up the offense.
The more times Djalo has the ball the better San Jose's scoring opportunities are. But he has been limited by injuries, meaning the offense remains a work in progress.
"We haven't found our identity going forward," defender Jason Hernandez said. "We all could ask a little more of ourselves."
The stagnancy isn't because of complacency. Players such as Lenhart have not let up just because the goals aren't coming.
But the Earthquakes have relied too much on direct play by lofting serves over the midfield in hopes the target forwards can create space for teammates. The style of play has been ineffectual.
"There's just not much going forward," Cronin said. "We've lacked some dynamic play."
The Earthquakes, however, feel good about their defense. They have been difficult to break down because of a strong shape on the backline no matter who has played.
The Quakes have lost by one goal in all six defeats this season. It's an indication of how close they are to coalescing into a formidable unit.
Defense should keep San Jose close throughout the rest of the season. But "we want to be the aggressors," Watson said.
The game Wednesday is the final of three matches in nine days. After Wednesday, San Jose has nine days off until its next game July 11. The club should have leading scorer Chris Wondolowski back from the World Cup for that home game against D.C. United. Honduras international Victor Bernardez is expected to mark his return to the lineup against Chivas after playing three times in Brazil, but it appears fellow center back Clarence Goodson is out nursing a groin muscle strain.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
Chivas USA (3-7-5) at Earthquakes (4-6-4), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA