The Earthquakes convened for a light practice on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a scrimmage against the Stanford University Men's Soccer team, at their new Nutrilite Training Facility in San Jose. A squad of mostly reserves, including the younger brother of last weekend's MOTM Chris Wondolowski, staved off a feisty and focused Stanford team for a 1-0 win on a Justin Morrow 40 yard strike.
The line-up was as follows:
Eduardo -- Cornell Glen
Ramon Sanchez -- Scott Sealy -- Brad Ring -- Javier Robles
Justin Morrow -- Bobby Burling -- Stephen Wondolowski -- Chris Leitch
The game started out well for the Earthquakes, as the midfield four formed more of a diamond shape with Sealy joining Eduardo and Glen in a striking triumvirate. Eduardo looked especially sharp in the early minutes, as Stanford could do little to counter his size and strength as a post-up forward. Nice interplay with Sanchez and Robles from the wings resulted in some early possession in the attacking third, and a few corner kick set pieces.
Stanford was closest to scoring first, when Wondolowski was victimized by a nice through ball that left the Cardinal forward one-on-one with Busch. A chip-shot attempt went wide of goal, and then Busch knocked into the forward injuring his opponent's shoulder. Unfortunately the injury forced him from the game.
In the 25th minute, with the Earthquakes finding space inside the Stanford penalty area hard to come from, Glen took a fine shot from 25 yards out that forced a palm save by the ‘keeper. Robles pounced on the rebound from just outside the area, but the ‘keeper again made a nice reaction save.
Five minutes later, the Cardinal had their second one-on-one chance with Busch, on a similar through ball that caught the defenders flat footed. This time Busch was forced to lay out his body and directed the ball away with his foot. The San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov would have been proud of the effort.
With the halftime whistle, the game remained scoreless. The Quakes carried a slight edge in possession, but the striking tandem of Eduardo and Glen were unable to test the goalkeeper. Sealy, playing more as a withdrawn forward, was neutralized by a congested Stanford midfield.
The second half began with Andrew Weber replacing Busch in goal, and he was tested in the first ten minutes as Stanford played with more attacking verve. In the 53rd minute, Weber made a nice save to push away a close range header at his near post. On the ensuing corner kick, the Cardinal narrowly missed taking the lead on a well struck volley that traveled just high of the crossbar.
In the 55th minute, a teasing shot from the right flank beat Weber to the far post, but caromed of the woodwork and into the path of a Cardinal forward. His follow-up attempt was slightly scuffed, giving Weber the chance to make a comfortable save.
At the 60 minute mark, the Quakes made two changes to the line-up, as Joey Gjertsen and Chris Wondolowski came in for Burling and Leitch. Some shuffling of positions left the team in a 3-5-2 formation that looked as follows:
Eduardo -- Cornell Glen
Chris Wondolowski -- Ramon Sanchez -- Scott Sealy -- Javier Robles -- Joey Gjertsen
Justin Morrow -- Brad Ring -- Stephen Wondolowski
The new look formation immediately paid dividends, as the three central midfielders asserted more control of possession in the front of the Stanford defenders. The Quakes were able to keep Stanford on their heels, and earned a free kick from 40 yards out in the 62nd minute.
Instead of looking to drive the ball into the Stanford penalty area, Robles passed the ball across the field to Sealy, who sent the ball along to Morrow. With the Cardinal defense pushing their line forward, Morrow saw the goalkeeper off his line and fired a knuckling ball over his head and into the goal. It seemed everyone was caught by surprise, even an sheepish looking Morrow. However, this was no accident, with the quality of the strike worthy of mention along side Wondolowski's game winner against the Rapids last Saturday.
Neither team really threatened in the attacking third as the game wore on, and both sides seemed content to let the game end at 1-0. The Cardinal proved to be a good opponent for the Quakes, and deserve credit for their determined performance. For San Jose, the scrimmage afforded the reserves and players looking to make their way back from injury a chance to get in some proper match action. Seeing Eduardo and Glen work well up top was encouraging, as was the play of Brad Ring and Justin Morrow in their defensive roles. Lastly, the goalkeeping play was excellent when required — a nice sign that there is no drop off in quality after Joe Cannon on the depth chart.
More notes from Tuesday training:
- Stephen Wondolowski, who works as a coach for the Earthquakes youth academy, had a great time filling in for the team. He took the gentle ribbing from his older brother on the sideline during the first half in stride, and was pleased to get a chance to play along side him in the later stages of the second half. Chris was all smiles after the game as well, especially since he and his brother never had too many chances to play on the same team when together with the Houston Dynamo or as kids growing up in Danville. But, at least on this day, the Wondolowski brothers could also call themselves teammates.
- The six regular starters who did not participate in the Stanford game -- Ryan Johnson, Ramiro Corrales, Jason Hernandez, Bobby Convey, Brandon McDonald, and Andre Luiz -- ran through some fitness drills in the two hours before the scrimmage. They kept busy after that playing a version of 2-on-2 soccer volleyball at a net and court set up behind the south endline. I was intrigued by this agility drill, and will find out more about it next time out.
- Arturo Alvarez, Omar Jasseh, and Steve Beitashour spent the training session doing light fitness drills. Both Alvarez and Beitashour are maybe a week away from returning to full training, while Jasseh, who underwent wrist surgery last week, will likely return the week after next.
- Goalkeeper Joe Cannon kept loose during isolated training alongside understudy Andrew Weber. Jon Busch, pegged to make the start in the Stanford scrimmage, joined the team just ahead of the game.
- The availability of Ike Opara for this weekend's match with the New York Red Bulls should be clear by Thursday. Coach Frank Yallop revealed that he expected the defender to join the team as early as tomorrow, after finishing the spring semester at Wake Forest. He will then stay with the team uninterrupted through the summer.
- A big positive for the Quakes was in having the new training field up and running as of late last week, which now allows the team to have complete control over their practice schedule. A team spokesperson talked about how difficult it was to schedule scrimmages at their prior training locations at West Valley College and Santa Clara University because they were not always guaranteed the times acceptable to potential opponents. With the Nutrilite Training Facility, that won't be a problem.