Watch parties in the stadium are sure enjoyable. They also make it difficult to watch the game with a fully analytical eye. So this week we'll go over some of the main winners and losers from yesterday's match. This isn't to overly praise or overly condemn certain players; it's just to highlight those that had a strong game, or by circumstance benefited from what took place in the game. And to highlight the opposite, of course.
It's hard to find many positives for the San Jose Earthquakes after they were so comprehensively beaten by a classy Toronto FC side. What we did see is the result of some important players missing. The five game unbeaten streak comes to an end, and just like that the Quakes fall out of a playoff spot. All you can do is regroup and give it another go next week.
Earthquakes Midfielders Fatai Alashe and Matías Pérez García - These two benefited as much as anybody on the Quakes from the play on the field Saturday. It's ironic, of course, because neither player even took the field. What the match revealed is what San Jose's central midfield looks like without these two players. Alashe, away with the U-23 US National Team, has provided defensive stability and shown a nose for winning the ball all season. MPG, out with a groin injury, has been the team's creative presence in attack.
The replacements simply did not offer the same quality. JJ Koval and Khari Stephenson looked overrun by a confident Michael Bradley in Toronto's midfield. They also could not provide enough defensive cover to help the back line handle Sebastian Giovinco. On the other end, they lacked ingenuity in attack and became stagnant.
For Alashe and MPG, their spots in the team are more cemented than ever. They are each key components on this team.
Toronto Defender Justin Morrow - Nothing like a little revenge against your former team, no? Morrow had himself a memorable match against the Quakes, highlighted by his 22nd minute opening goal. On that particular play, he happened to beat Quakes' side back Jordan Stewart to the ball - the exact man who replaced him at left back in the San Jose lineup.
Elsewhere on the field, Morrow was a significant part of the TFC defense that held the Quakes in check during the game. San Jose found very little draw down the flanks, and much of this can be credited to Morrow and his opposite side back Ashtone Morgan.
Always a fan favorite here in San Jose, you can't help but wish Morrow all the best. You just hope that his best manifests itself against other opponents. Like the rest of the Western Conference, for instance.
Earthquakes Forward Chris Wondolowski and Midfielder Shea Salinas - They get on this list because they're pretty much responsible for San Jose's attacking inspiration during the match. Salinas fed the cross to Wondolowski that resulted in the penalty and the only goal for the Black and Blue. Wondo then finished off the PK with the usual confidence.
This wasn't an excellent game for either one really, yet they still stood out amidst the rest of the lineup. Wondo now has goals in four straight games, and in five of the last six. Salinas has shown significant improvement this year over last, and after beginning the season on the bench, has made himself an indispensable starter.
What the Quakes need now is more contribution in attack from the supporting cast. This is a trying time in the season, with injuries to key players, and international duty sapping many San Jose starters. The team needs more than these two to step up.
Earthquakes Center Backs Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson - Maybe it's a little unfair to pick on these guys after what's been an admittedly solid season so far, but we saw them get outclassed in this game rather significantly.
Sebastian Giovinco is really, really good. We obviously see the ball handling skills and shooting prowess he possesses, but what made him a real terror to defend on Saturday was his movement. Center backs like to be able to stay at home in the center of the pitch, but Sebo would not allow that. He repeatedly made runs into space on the flanks and pulled the center backs with him, creating lanes up the middle. Two such plays resulted in Toronto goals.
Coach Dominic Kinnear tried to combat this by replacing Goodson at the half with the more mobile Paulo Renato. Renato seemed to fare a bit better, but the team conceded another late goal anyway. You'd better believe that Bernardez and Goodson are looking forward to a different challenge next week - one that doesn't include a 5'4" Italian.
Toronto Forward Jozy Altidore - With Giovinco now putting together a string of exceptional performances in Altidore's absence, one starts to wonder if the Italian operates better without the US International on the pitch. It seems counterintuitive to suggest that Toronto would be worse off with Jozy in the lineup. But Giovinco's recent performances have just been that good.
When Altidore plays, he becomes more of the focal point in the attack. Altidore's movement is very good, but early in the season it looked like that movement sometimes got in the way of Giovinco's runs, and disrupted the Italian's playmaking. With Altidore healing from his injury, Giovinco has had the freedom to fully orchestrate the Reds' attack. Against the Quakes, he had two assists, and hit the post twice in the match. It's hard to argue with results.
Even with this, it's hard to imagine Jozy being held out of the lineup once healthy. But if there was any question about who the offensive leader on Toronto should be, Giovinco has answered and then some.
Earthquakes Midfielder Sanna Nyassi - His performances continue to slide at a time when San Jose needs him most. With the aforementioned absences of key Earthquakes players, the team needs to be able to rely on Nyassi for some solidity on the attacking flank. Right now, it's getting the opposite.
We can argue about whether or not Nyassi was fouled on Toronto's second goal. Regardless, he made the wrong play in cutting the ball back into the center, when he was essentially even with the top of his own 18-yard box. It's little decisions like that which are troublesome. He didn't seem to make those decisions earlier in the year.
As the Quakes offense looks to improve and move the ball more quickly, Nyassi looks like he can't keep up. If his performances don't change soon, questions should be asked about who could step in to fill the role instead.