The San Jose Earthquakes’ game against the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night was their first game under the floodlights at Avaya Stadium. It was also a game the Quakes desperately needed to win to snap a potential two game home losing streak. Following the loss at home last week to Real Salt Lake the Quakes had looked like a team that often had a hard time stringing more than a couple or three passes together, a team that was still using difficult to control, high and long balls as the go-to option.
In the first half against Vancouver the Earthquakes passing was greatly improved but a lot of the time it still looked as if players were going for the intricate plays, the elaborate passes, and for the large part these weren’t working.
When asked at halftime down on the field what his players needed to do to win, Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear said he wanted the team to make the simple, more obvious pass, to pass and move, pass and move.
There’s a huge advantage to making the simple, obvious pass in that players don’t have to stop and think. These passes are ingrained in muscle memory. Long hours on the practice field as well as in the course of games, drill this kind of pass into players’ DNA. Even a split-second deciding which pass to make can be the difference between getting the ball where it needs to be and having it taken off your toe or intercepted.
Yes, the crowd loves to thrill to the audacious lob, the incisive through ball, the long range, pinpoint accurate pass but how often do they see those moves actually work? A series of short, accurate passes that move the ball quickly downfield can be just as satisfying, especially if the final pass is into the net.
Tonight proved that the Quakes have a coach that the team not only listens to but that it also understands and, most importantly, responds to.
The first half, the game was balanced like an elephant on a high wire over Niagara Falls, with the crowd waiting for something to happen.
The second half rewarded everyone’s patience as the Quakes came out spraying short passes and pressing for the ball like a team that had shifted up a gear. Vancouver never looked like having a way to stop them and after a protracted spell of pressure the 75th minute goal by Sanna Nyassi came as no surprise.
After the game, talking about the second half Kinnear said:
“I thought our energy level was definitely better. We were moving the ball quicker and therefore guys were finding little gaps in the field, which made it easier to attack. And I think at that point we were playing in their half of the field rather than our half of the field. I thought we were due a goal. We were knocking on the door, we were getting in around it."
Sitting third in the Western Conference early season standings the Quakes now head out on a four game road trip. How they fare, should they choose to pursue and develop the short passing game, against New York, Salt Lake City, Houston, and Colorado could go a long ways to defining their season.