The San Jose Earthquakes conclude their preseason schedule this Saturday with a match against Sacramento Republic FC at Avaya Stadium, one week before opening their 2017 MLS regular season campaign against the Montreal Impact. Kick-off against the Quakes former USL affiliate is scheduled to kick off at 2:00 p.m., and attendance is free for season ticket holders. The game will be live streamed here.
San Jose has faced Sacramento at Avaya before — as part of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup — and the two teams have developed quite a rivalry since the Republic started play in 2014. The preseason friendly should in some ways serve as a dress rehearsal for next Saturday, though the chances that the starting line-up stays the same from one match to the next is likely remote.
“It could be. It depends what happens,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “We could throw out some guys that end up not being available for the following weekend, so it may make it moot. You always have that idea in mind that this game could feature the team you are looking at to start the season from the get-go, but you still have to remain optimistic and open-minded to possible changes.”
Part of Kinnear’s hesitation in laying out his plans ahead of next week’s regular season opener is that only this week are all of the Earthquakes off-season signings finally present at the same time. Since early January, the Quakes have signed five international players — Harold Cummings, Marco Urena, Danny Hoesen, Florian Jungwirth, and Jahmir Hyka — but getting them together to train and build chemistry has been a challenge due to securing work visas. That has all been sorted out, and Kinnear couldn’t be more relieved.
“We haven’t had the entire squad together yet. Not all in one place,” said Kinnear. “This weekend will mark the first time we’ve had the team together as a whole. You’d love to have it happen earlier, but we are happy it’s happening.”
Hyka made his Quakes debut earlier this week and was very impressive as an attacking midfielder. Jungwirth re-arrived today and already is a front-runner to play on the defensive line this weekend and next. Hoesen and Urena will compete to play forward, while Cummings is still a week away from full training following a surgical procedure earlier this month. Throw in current Designated Players Chris Wondolowski and Simon Dawkins, and the team looks quite formidable heading into the 2017 MLS season.
“We are looking really good,” said Dawkins to Center Line Soccer. “The new signings look very sharp, both at forward and in defense. They look really good. They are really experienced as well and they can help us as we start the season.”
The Earthquakes opponent this weekend is also in their preseason, as the Republic gears up for its USL season opener next month. The Division Two competitor is not one to take lightly, especially as they will want to measure up against a Division One MLS foe. San Jose’s only loss of the preseason so far was to local NASL side San Francisco Deltas.
“Those NASL and USL teams are always tricky because you know what you are going to get from them,” explained Kinnear. “You have to make sure the mentality of your team is to act first because you know what mentality the other team will bring.”
And while the match will only count for Nor-Cal bragging rights — The Hella Cup, as some supporters like to call it — it does provide the Earthquakes a valuable opportunity to tune up their squad and elevate the level of their play ahead of the match against Montreal. Kinnear has shared that message with the team all week, and he is expecting a solid performance from everyone on the field.
“The one thing you have to be mindful of is getting guys healthy, getting guys fit,” said Kinnear, “and then getting them in the right frame of mind to attack the season.”
- The rules on substitutions will be relaxed for Saturday’s match, so both teams are expected to bring on more than the typical three subs. Kinnear hinted that rookie Nick Lima could get the start at right back, while Tommy Thompson might start in midfield. Hyka, newly arrived in San Jose this week, looks set to appear as a substitute.
- Attendance to the match is free for all Earthquakes season ticket holders. Food trucks will line the Epicenter fan-zone, and the stadium concessionaires will be introducing a slew of new food and drink options.
- Those single-shoulder backpacks the Quakes provided fans when the stadium opened in 2015 will no longer be allowed into Avaya, so the team has a giveaway planned for tomorrow: Clear tote bags will be distributed to the first 5000 fans in attendance. Only clear bags will be allowed into Avaya Stadium from now on.
- New general manager Jesse Fioranelli will hold a question and answer session with season ticket holders following the game. Fioranelli has been active in soliciting fan feedback since joining the club in January. This will be his biggest public appearance to date.
- In the aftermath of the recent floods in San Jose, the Earthquakes will continue to take donations from fans who attend the match. The club has pledged to match the first $10,000 donated towards relief efforts for the many flood victims.