The San Jose Earthquakes couldn’t have asked for a better time for a break from MLS action, as two straight losses to Western Conference opponents dropped them below the red line for postseason qualification. The FIFA international break has given the walking wounded on the roster a chance to rest and recover, and tonight’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the San Francisco Deltas will provide some of those players that have not played often — or at all — the chance to earn some valuable competitive minutes.
Two players to look for when the Quakes kick off their Open Cup campaign at Avaya Stadium, kickoff at 7:15 p.m., are rookie midfielder Jackson Yueill and second-year goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell. Both came to San Jose via the MLS SuperDraft and are on Generation Adidas contracts, but neither has had the opportunity to show the Quakes faithful what they can do on the field. That will change against the Deltas.
Yueill left UCLA early to enter MLS, and at this year’s pre-draft Combine, caught the attention of new general manager Jesse Fioranelli, who immediately made it clear he liked what the 20-year-old U.S. youth international brings in terms of creativity and poise to the midfield. Yueill has yet to make his MLS debut, but he has made the match-day 18 on occasion. The Open Cup will be his first playing time at Avaya Stadium.
Tarbell has been in the unfortunate position of being starting goalkeeper David Bingham’s understudy since being drafted by the Quakes last year. He did make one appearance in 2016, spelling an injured Bingham at halftime last August when San Jose visited the Columbus Crew. Tarbell did not play in last year’s 2-0 Open Cup loss at the Portland Timbers, as Bryan Meredith got the start instead.
The winner of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup will receive an automatic bid to the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, which will pit the best clubs from around the region in a tournament that will send the winner to the FIFA Club World Cup. MLS teams enter the field in the fourth round — 32 teams in total play this week — so a five-game winning streak by any MLS team sends them to the CCL.
San Jose returns to MLS action this Saturday when they host Sporting Kansas City, but that won’t mean they will overlook the NASL Deltas tonight. The San Francisco outfit, currently playing their inaugural season, beat the Earthquakes 1-0 in the preseason, and they will be looking for the upset against their first division foe. The winner of the match will earn a place in the Open Cup Round of 16. U.S. Soccer will hold a draw later this week to determine the pairings for that round.
Plenty of tickets remain for tonight’s match at Avaya Stadium. Season Ticket holders gain admission by using Bonus Game B tickets, which will also be honored for all future Open Cup matches this summer played at Avaya Stadium.
With the announcement by Fioranelli last week that the Earthquakes would announce a DP signing by the end of the month, speculation has grown as to who will suit up in Blue and Black when the MLS secondary transfer window opens on July 10.
Reports from south of the border warmed over the rumor that Colombian striker Darwin Quintero is still in play for a transfer to the Quakes, but the odds of that happening are very slim, especially given that Fioranelli stated that he is targeting a player under the age of 28, and Quintero is already a ripe 29.
A name that has popped up in conversations is Ecuadorian midfielder Miller Bolanos, who featured in MLS back in 2012 for the now defunct Chivas USA. Just turned 27 earlier this month, Bolanos has been a regular with Brazilian top flight team Gremio, where he has scored 3 goals since his transfer from Ecuador powerhouse LDU Quito in 2016. He has been injured for part of this season, but he is back in training and looking to get back into the Gremio starting lineup.
Bolanos has earned 20 caps for Ecuador and scored 8 goals. He can play both as an attacking midfielder and winger, so his skill set matches up with Fioranelli’s wish-list. It is likely that it would take a sizable transfer fee to bring Bolanos to MLS as he still has one more year on his contract with Gremio, but the player’s familiarity with MLS would help him make the transition quickly, and the Quakes definitely need the kind of help on offense he can provide.