Saturday the Earthquakes hosted Liga MX leading Cruz Azul at Avaya stadium in a late-season friendly. This match served as a great opportunity for some of the younger players on the team to get some valuable minutes against a quality opponent as Cruz Azul currently sit atop the Liga MX table. Gilbert Fuentes a 16-year-old homegrown, the youngest player ever signed by the Earthquakes made his first ever start for the club. This marked the first time the Earthquakes and Cruz Azul have ever met in a competitive match with the Earthquakes holding a 1-7-3 record against all Liga MX clubs before Saturday’s match.
The game itself was as exciting as could be expected ending in a scoreless draw or as the Earthquakes PR department put it “Earthquakes shutout Liga MX leaders”. That sounds way cooler but it is fitting after the way this season has gone. The action on the pitch may have been as exciting as expected but the action in the stands was livelier.
Not So Friendly
To describe the atmosphere at Avaya on Saturday as lively and different would be accurate. As has happened in the past most of the people in attendance were supporters of the visiting Liga MX side and it made sense. San Jose has a huge Mexican community and Cruz Azul is one of those famous clubs in Mexico. Then again if you play in the largest city in North America you are probably going to have a decent following but that is another story. The chance to see your favorite club play in front of you is rare and as much as I want Avaya to be all Earthquakes all the time it I love to show it off to other people.
Unfortunately, the rarity of this event also brings out people who rarely go to MLS games and use these types of friendlies to “show the Americans what real soccer supporters are like” and usually end up messing up the match for themselves and people in their immediate vicinity. The game on the pitch itself was what you would expect from an international friendly between two squads with no history. This allowed that small group of people to continue to chug lagers until they were throwing beer, water, paper, or anything that would fly. Security did what it could and started escorting people out but as they did that it left a group of drunk people with no adult supervision for a couple of minutes and that’s when things got worse.
All of a sudden the Ultras were under a barrage that they had no part in starting and a lot of families made their way to drier ground. A group of about half a dozen San Jose Police officers then made their way up to the stands and while they chanting and trash talking continued, the missiles stayed on their launch pads the rest of the game. I hope the Earthquakes front office takes a look at their security plan going forward but overall it was not enough to take away from the atmosphere at Avaya.
With the announcement last week of the hiring of Matias Almeyda to manage the team in the future a lot of Earthquakes supporters starting talking about Almeydas ability to develop young talent. Watching the Earthquakes make promising signings only to let those hopes sit on the bench can get frustrating but on Saturday that youth was in full display. The Earthquakes started the game with six players under the age of 23: Gilbert Fuentes (16), Eric Calvillo (20), JT Marcinkowski (21), Yeferson Quintana (22), Luis Felipe (22) and Nick Lima (23). What impact and how many minutes they play next year is still a huge question but now they seem to have a manager that understands the key role that the younger generation has in developing the way of the future.