Three things we learned from the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids:
1) When Matias Perez Garcia had to exit early, Dominic Kinnear had a choice of Tommy Thompson or Marc Pelosi to bring in for the diminutive Argentine. Instead of going with the almost 20-year-old -- Tommy celebrates his birthday on Saturday -- as he has done all season, Kinnear elected to give the 21-year-old former Liverpool player the opportunity. Has the Tommy Thompson Hype Train run out of fuel?
"This was just for tonight," explained head coach Dominic Kinnear when asked if Pelosi had moved ahead of Thompson on the depth chart. "Marc did well. He's been doing well in practice, and I think he deserved his minutes. It's not one or the other; it's just how I feel at that particular time, and I thought at that particular time in the game, we needed Marc because he tackles well, he makes good passes, and he could sit a little bit deeper and let Chris (Wondolowski) get more forward."
Earthquakes supporters have been waiting for Thompson to show his skill all season. After all, the dynamic homegrown player is one of most skilled players on the squad -- a magician with the ball at his feet. However, Thompson has not delivered in 13 appearances so far this season, scoring his only goal of the year in the MLS Homegrown exhibition game against Club America as part of the league's All-Star week festivities. He's taken 12 shots for San Jose this season, with three on target, but that is all. No goals and no assists for TT.
Pelosi has the pedigree that Thompson aspires to, and Kinnear needs to field a team to win games, not win skills contests. The summer newcomer has upside that at this point Thompson may not, and when he entered the game in the 50th minute, the Earthquakes fortunes quickly changed. The game was still scoreless, but the energy Pelosi brought to the proceedings was a key element in San Jose scoring three minutes later.
2) Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez are as fearsome a centerback duo as any in MLS, so it was with great hope that Quakes fans saw #21 back in the starting lineup after a two week absence due to a leg injury. His partnership with his Honduran line-mate made very few mistakes against a Rapids side that didn't shy from the attacking third, and his second half goal was as vital a goal as San Jose has scored all season.
"That was huge," said Kinnear on getting Goodson back in the starting lineup. "He's such a smart player and does a lot of things right. When you watch the game, his positioning is right, and his decisions to play the ball out of the back, whether on the ground or in the air, he makes good decisions. He finds himself in good areas, and obviously he's dangerous when he gets going forward. So, he's a good center back. We all know that. And to have him back for this game was a big one."
Bernardez continued his solid season with timely tackles and the occasional bit of calculated thuggery. Sure, he earned a yellow card early in the second half, but the World Cup veteran did not back down the rest of the way. And when the Quakes went a goal up in the 53rd minute, he settled into his role as the last man in defense.
With Goodson and Bernardez at full health, the Quakes can play with more attacking verve up front knowing their defensive line will take care of business in the back.
3) Quincy Amarikwa and Chris Wondolowski looked okay up front, but their partnership still has room to grow. With Wondolowski still two goals away from reaching the century mark as a member of the Earthquakes, he needs to be more involved at forward, and with Amarikwa settling into a "target forward" style role, he took more chances to push ahead. Supporters have shared a lot of angst over Wondo's perceived place in the midfield, so it was encouraging to see that shift in placement against the Rapids.
And Amarikwa? His hustle sometimes looks like the only positive on the field, as it did last week against the Houston Dynamo, and the San Jose returnee has notched four goals in five starts since early July. On Friday, he was credited with the assist on Goodson's game winning goal. The 27-year-old is now second on the team in goals -- behind Wondolowski's nine goals -- and could increase that total two or three fold as he and the Earthquakes talisman striker forge an understanding in the attacking third.
"Pretty good," said Kinnear on the developing partnership between Wondolowski and Amarikwa. "Usually with Matias (on the field), Chris has to drop back a little bit more sometimes, and he is a little bit of a late arriver in the penalty area. With Marc in there, it let him be a little bit closer, and we created some more dangerous situations. Quincy was definitely active, and Chris definitely found his spots. It's just getting the ball on target for them."