SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes have been searching for their scoring touch for well over a year, but if their 2017 MLS regular season opening 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact is an indication, they may have found a recipe for creating more opportunities in front of goal.
An infusion of young talent in the attacking corps, highlighted by the late preseason addition of Albanian midfielder Jahmir Hyka, has given the Quakes the energy to establish their will on games, most notably through the execution of a high press when the other team has the ball. Costa Rican forward Marco Urena and Dutch striker Danny Hoesen also join Hyka in that endeavor, and all three helped San Jose to its convincing win.
“We know that it was important to win the first game,” said Hyka, “and it has helped build our confidence. For us, every game at home, we need to attack every team because we are home. We have to press these teams and show them that we are there.”
Hyka entered the game in the 70th minute with the Earthquakes already leading 1-0 and Montreal down a man following defender Hassoun Camara’s second yellow card a few minutes earlier, so the Impact were already in a hole, but he didn’t coast to the final whistle. Instead, he continued to harass the Impact at every turn, and his hustle play almost yielded an insurance goal for San Jose.
It was the type of shift that got the attention of head coach Dominic Kinnear, especially with a tough Vancouver Whitecaps team visiting Avaya Stadium this Saturday, and Hyka is starting to push for his first starting assignment with the team since arriving to MLS.
“Yes, and that is what you want to see,” said Kinnear, adding that on Saturday against the Whitecaps, “He will play.”
Hyka has quickly adapted to his new environment, and it appears that he will get that starting nod sooner than later. The midfielder, who scored against the Sacramento Republic FC in the Quakes final preseason match, pronounced himself fit to go this week, so it is up to Kinnear to decide what to do next.
“Everyday I am feeling better, especially in the last 10 to 20 minutes in the last game,” said Hyka. “The team did a good job, so also it was easy for me to come inside and have a good game. Let’s hope it will be even better in the next game.”
With Simon Dawkins’ availability for Saturday in question, Hyka would be the natural replacement at left midfielder for the Earthquakes. Everyone else that started the season opener against the Impact looks primed to start this weekend against Vancouver.
“Against Montreal, we had a very good game,” said Hyka. “All of the team was prepared to press them high, and we didn’t let them play so much. We didn’t give them very many chances, and that is also our goal in the next game, to show Vancouver that we are playing at home, and we are there to press and win the game.”
Even though he has played only twice at Avaya Stadium since joining the team, Hyka quickly felt the energy provided by the fans and the San Jose Ultras supporters group. Following the victory against Montreal, he made it a point to salute the Ultras for their support of him and all the players.
“Yes, of course it is nice that from the first day I arrived here they were here for me,” said Hyka. “They encourage me all the time, and I am happy for that. I will try to give my best to make them happy.”
Happy would be a second straight win to start the 2017 MLS season. The Earthquakes game against the Whitecaps is scheduled to kick-off at 6:45 p.m.