With just over a week until the start of the 2016 MLS season, the San Jose Earthquakes face the New York Cosmos in their final friendly of the preseason. The match, which pits together two clubs that have their namesake origins in the 1970's-era NASL, kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at Avaya Stadium. For the Quakes, the game will serve as a dress rehearsal for their season opener on March 6 against the Colorado Rapids.
Yes, you saw in Sacramento last week that the least amount of minutes for the starters was 75, with some guys going 80-plus," said head coach Dominic Kinnear following Friday's training session. "I do want to get into the habit of winning games."
The Earthquakes roster, which saw more significant additions than subtractions in the off-season, has been fashioned with depth in mind, so the match against the Cosmos will be the first time Kinnear will put out what should amount to his projected line-up for the season opener against the Rapids. One notable inclusion: newly signed midfielder Alberto Quintero, who joined the Quakes on a season-long loan Thursday from Mexican second division club Lobos BUAP.
"He's available to play," said Kinnear, "and he'll see minutes tomorrow night. Obviously, he hasn't played a lot lately, so it's important for us to get him into the team and build his fitness as quick as we can."
Quintero last played a competitive game in January, when he, along with teammate Anibal Godoy, featured for the Panamanian national team in a Copa America Centenario qualifier against Cuba, which they won 4-0. He is expected to join his countryman in the Quakes midfield when they face the Cosmos Saturday night, as is Shea Salinas and Simon Dawkins.
Matias Perez Garcia, who will be suspended for the MLS season opener against the Rapids because of a red card he earned in the 2015 season finale 2-1 loss at FC Dallas, is expected to be on the bench against the Cosmos. MPG, once his one-game suspension is served, would be eligible to start again for the Quakes, likely in place of Salinas when San Jose hosts the MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers on March 13.
Quintero, along with Salinas, will play on the wings, while Dawkins, who starred for the Quakes at that position in his first tenure with the club from 2011-2012, will shift centrally and pair with Godoy. As was the case much of last year, the wingers will at times switch sides of the field during the run of play as the team adapts to its opponent. For Quintero, who has featured predominantly at right midfielder during his career, he'll likely see time on the left too.
"Left and right," said Kinnear. "He plays a lot on the left for Panama, and knowing that he can flip-flop from side to side made it nice to go after him."
Partnered with Salinas to stretch opposing defenses along the sidelines, Quintero brings plenty of pace to the proceedings. In fact, the 28-year-old has made it his signature to play the ball into space and take on defenders in the attacking third.
"Speed, unbalancing defenses, technically skilled -- I feel that I am a very good player," said Quintero, through an interpreter, following his first full training session with the Quakes on Friday. "These are some of the things I can bring to the team."
Quintero arrived in San Jose earlier in the week and immediately featured in the Quakes preseason match against SF City FC on Wednesday. Much like fellow countryman Godoy, who stepped into the Earthquakes starting line-up mere hours after his arrival last summer, Quintero is expected to make his first start against the Cosmos.
"He hasn't told me directly that I am a starter, but it is nice to hear that," said Quintero. "My goal, my dream coming to San Jose was to play in every game I can. So far, I've been asked to play my game and integrate into the team the best I can."
With a good result against the Cosmos and a solid performance against the Rapids, Quintero will make it a hard decision for Kinnear when it comes to deciding just how much he will play. One thing is certain: The Earthquakes did not bring the Panamanian in just to warm the bench.
"He's a good enough player to start in this league," said Kinnear.
Among the other starters projected for the match against the Cosmos are forwards Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa, who together formed a potent partnership over the second half of the 2015 season. The back four will also look familiar, as veteran center back duo Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson will anchor the line, and Marvel Wynne and Shaun Francis will be stationed outside. Goalkeeper David Bingham, looking to parlay a successful 2015 into another improved season, is expected to start in goal.
Following the match against the Cosmos, the Earthquakes will have exactly one week to prepare for Colorado. The Quakes will want to beat New York tonight in order to build up confidence ahead of the season opener against the Rapids.