The optimism surrounding the San Jose Earthquakes coming out of the preseason reached new heights following their comprehensive 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact in the MLS season opener for both teams, and now the Quakes will be aiming to keep that momentum going when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday at Avaya Stadium.
A victory would push San Jose’s record to 2-0, the second time in as many seasons the team would start its campaign with back-to-back wins. The Whitecaps arrive at Avaya following a scoreless draw against the Philadelphia Union in their season opener, and they have a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal to contend with this Tuesday against Liga MX side Tigres in Monterrey.
It is possible that Vancouver will field more of a “B” team against a Quakes in an effort to remain fresh ahead of their trip to Mexico. Attacking stars such as Fredy Montero and Nicolas Mezquida might be dropped to the bench and only available as substitutes, which could be a break for San Jose, though head coach Dominic Kinnear does not share that thought.
“We have to think that anybody who plays for them is going to have a great game,” Kinnear told Center Line Soccer following Thursday’s training session. “You can’t think anything different. You have to be prepared for their best because if they do bring their best, and you are not prepared for it, you’re in for a long night.”
The Whitecaps will have dangerous forward Kekuta Manneh in the Starting XI, as well as teen phenom Alphonso Davies. Imposing center back Kendall Waston is also expected to start following a one-game suspension to start the MLS season following a red card incident to end the 2016 campaign.
“I know Carl (Robinson) will have his team ready to fight,” Kinnear said of his Whitecaps counterpart, “and we have to match that if we want to get anything out of the game.”
The Quakes showing against Montreal was the polar opposite of how the team played to finish the 2016 season, and the efforts of the San Jose defense to shut down the Impact offense turned heads around the league. Anibal Godoy, the man of the match for the Earthquakes and a recent call-up to the Panamanian national team for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Trinidad & Tobago and the USA, is bullish that they’ll come out strong against Vancouver.
“I am very happy with the team,” Godoy told Center Line Soccer. “Last Saturday, we showed what we can do when we play together. The attitude is very good. It was a good performance for everybody.
“For this Saturday, the most important the we keep our concentration and stay focused for Vancouver is a very quick team. They can be difficult, so containing them, this will be important.”
“We are happy with the way he played and he’s put in a good week of training as well,” said Kinnear. “His concentration and focus are pretty good, as was clear in last week’s game. It shows you how good he can play, and we are hoping to be even better the next time he goes out. We are holding him to a high standard.”
The Earthquakes starting line-up is expected to remain the same as the season opener, though there remains questions about Simon Dawkins availability heading into the weekend. If the Designated Player winger is deemed unable to go, midfielder Jahmir Hyka is fit and prepared to play.
“Every day I am feeling better,” said Hyka. “The team did a good job, so also it was easy for me to come in and have a good game. Let’s hope it will be even better in the next game.”
San Jose still has a number of players unavailable for selection against the Whitecaps — Kip Colvey, Matheus Silva, and Jackson Yueill have all been loaned to USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC this weekend; Marc Pelosi, Quincy Amarikwa, and Marvell Wynne are not cleared to play — but Panamanian defender Harold Cummings, who underwent sports hernia surgery in February, is back in full training. It is unlikely he will see any minutes this Saturday, according to Kinnear, but he was pleased to have another important member of the squad one step closer to readiness.
“It is good for us,” said Kinnear. “His return will strengthen the squad. As an international, we know he is a good player. We thought he started the preseason well, in practice and in our first game, and we were looking forward to seeing him more on the field. Unfortunately, a bit of an injury put him on the sideline for a while.”
The Earthquakes didn’t suffer at all with Cummings out in their 1-0 win against Montreal, as the Impact didn’t record a single shot on goal. The 25 year old received good news this week when he was named to Panama’s national team roster, along with fellow Panamaniac Godoy, and he will remain a possible inclusion in the Quakes line-up when they travel to Sporting Kansas City next week.
“Our defense has been good, but knowing that you have a guy here that is getting closer to pushing for a spot confirms that the squad will be deeper because of that,” added Kinnear.
Kick-off for Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. at Avaya Stadium, and the game will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet. As is tradition for the Earthquakes second home match of the season, the first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a free 2017 schedule magnet.