1. Stick to the 4-1-4-1 formation. Not only has it become increasingly popular in the English Premier League, this seems to be a formation that allows San Jose’s midfield and defense a great deal of fluidity around the central, energetic figure of 21-year-old Fatai Alashe. There’s been a lot of talk about having to contain Orlando City’s star player, Kaka, and this formation could be key to getting the job done.
2. Utilize and protect Matias Perez Garcia as much as possible. Garcia is by far one of the most gifted and experienced players to ever pull on the San Jose Earthquakes jersey, and that’s saying something given the talent this club has produced over the last 41 years.
It’s increasingly evident that Garcia is gifted with not only technical skills but also with vision. He has the skill to deliver the ball from dead ball situations so that it drops suddenly like a mortar into a clump of players, but also in open play he identifies clearly and quickly where passes need to go.
Too often in the past players critical to the San Jose Earthquakes performance wound up injured and a whole strategic plan went out the window. It’s a common enough fate for any player in what is now recognized as one of the most physical leagues in the world. So as well as utilizing Garcia as much as possible, protecting him as much as possible from injury is also crucial.
3. Pressure the ball. This cannot be emphasized enough and not just for the Earthquakes but for every team in Major League Soccer. One of the non-financial reasons that skill levels in other leagues such as the EPL have risen to their current level is due in large part to pressuring the ball.
In a lot of MLS game we see acres of space around players receiving the ball. Even in lower level EPL and Championship League games we see players pressured into moving the ball the second they receive it. It’s estimated that a player receiving the ball in an EPL game has on average 10th of a second to do something with that ball. In MLS as it stands the team that pressures the ball throughout the game will dominate and beat the team that doesn’t; San Jose needs to go after the ball from the get-go and maintain that pressure throughout.
Pre-new stadium and pre-new head coach, there was a lot of talk about the San Jose Earthquakes needing to reinvent themselves after their disastrous 2014 season. Talk’s cheap, it’s easy to say teams need to do this and teams need to do that, but the signs are clear that in this case Dominic Kinnear and the players of the San Jose Earthquakes have wasted no time radically altering the way they approach and execute games. The results are starting to come and teams are already more wary of coming to play in San Jose than they were of old and, perhaps more importantly, increasingly wary of San Jose coming to their turf.
San Jose Earthquakes play Orlando City FC at Levi Stadium on Sunday May 24. Kick off is at 4PM PST. The game will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1, as well as 1370 KZSF and 1590 KLIV.