The San Jose Earthquakes' 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday should not diminish the 3-1 result from the California Clásico last Saturday. It should, though, inspire a certain level of disappointment. The Quakes had a great chance to double up their rivals from the south. San Jose had home field advantage, were riding the momentum from that very same Clásico match.
Unfortunately, a poor start and a lack of finishing ultimately derailed the team's chances. Besides the obvious drawback of being eliminated from the tournament, San Jose lost the chance to get some of the bench players quality minutes. As Luke James noted in his article on the importance of the Cup, players can use these matches as opportunities to showcase what they can bring to the team.
As it is, we have but two matches to judge the Earthquakes' lesser-seen talent. So, after the contests between Sacramento and LA, here are a few of the standouts.
GK Bryan Meredith
Meredith looked very strong for the vast majority of the two games he played during the Open Cup. He generally commanded his area well, and certainly displayed his ability in net. Three goals against in two matches isn't stellar, but you can hardly blame him on those plays. Most of the danger came at the expense of a rather weak left side of San Jose's back line. He was often left quite exposed.
His highlight was undoubtedly the penalty shootout against Sacramento. He stopped two penalties, including one in the 5th round, which he had to save to prolong the contest. He looked a bit shaky early in the Republic match, but once he settled in he looked very solid.
Unfortunately for Meredith, incumbent starter David Bingham has done nothing to lose his place. As a goalkeeper Meredith may be the player on the roster that the Open Cup exit hurts the most. Difficult for him, but nice for the fans to know that the Quakes have a reliable keeper waiting in the wings should anything happen to Bingham.
M Leandro Barrera
After Barrera's play in these two games, one has to wonder why he has been used so sparingly so far this season - he's played just 28 minutes total spread out over three appearances. In both matches, he was one of San Jose's most consistent attackers. He was never afraid to run at players and take them on. His service from the flanks was top notch and created a number of chances for the team.
Make no mistake, he still has plenty to work on. He tends to get carried away constantly trying to beat players off the dribble. Sometimes it simply isn't there and he'll turn the ball over unnecessarily. His vision could also improve, which would take his game to the next level.
Nevertheless, he appears to be an exciting option of the bench. In Chris Wondolowski's imminent absence from the team, Barrera's contributions could become even more valuable. San Jose will inevitably have to use at least one towering striker on the pitch, and Barrera's crosses will be useful. A natural left footer, don't be surprised to see Dominic Kinnear bring him in late and shift Shea Salinas to the right side of midfield. This formation would give the Quakes two dangerous crossing midfielders, and should yield plenty of aerial chances.
F Mark Sherrod
So yes, Sherrod came up goalless from the two Open Cup games. And yes, he definitely had a couple of chances that he should have stuck away. But he showed a good hunger for the ball and improved throughout the matches. Against the Galaxy in particular, he got his head on the ball numerous times, flashing shots wide or getting stymied by the opposing goalkeeper. He was unlucky not to get his goal on a play flagged for offsides.
It's not like Sherrod was completely unknown to Quakes fans before this. His red card against Dallas was well documented, and his three total appearances have yielded 113 minutes altogether. But these games gave him more time to get comfortable in the team and gain some confidence.
Expect to see Sherrod compete for playing time in the near future. For better or worse, this upcoming Wondo-less period on the Quakes will force the other forwards on the team to step up. At this point, it really is unclear who will fill number 8's shoes. Sherrod is showing that he could be on the right track to contribute.