SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the start of the MLS season only three weeks away, the San Jose Earthquakes are looking in pretty good shape. Saturday afternoon, in front of a dedicated crowd at Avaya Stadium, the Quakes defeated their USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC 4-0 in a game that was as one sided as the score suggests.
Forward Danny Hoesen, back in San Jose on a permanent basis following his season-long loan in 2017, scored the first two goals for the Earthquakes. The team’s new designated player, midfielder Magnus Eriksson, netted a pair of his own, as the Quakes raced out to a comfortable 4-0 halftime lead.
“It was nice to score my first goals for the Earthquakes,” said Eriksson. “It was fun. It was cool.”
The second stanza was a bit more cagey, as both San Jose and Reno plumbed the depths of their benches. Three of the Earthquakes substitutions, defender Jimmy Ockford and midfielders Luis Felipe and Chris Wehan, signed MLS contracts in the off-season following successful stints with Reno in 2017. Still, the chance to see the majority of his roster in action was worth it to head coach Mikael Stahre as he continues to put together his favored line-up ahead of the Quakes season opener in three weeks.
“It’s always nice to win games, and also to score four goals,” said head coach Mikael Stahre. “The first line-up performed very well. They were very aggressive in defense and we controlled the ball in the central area. We had good movement behind their back line and we created a lot of chances. A decent performance, for sure.”
The four goals scored, as well as the shutout by the goalkeeping tandem of Andrew Tarbell and Matt Bersano, pleased Stahre, who has been using the preseason to work on key elements of the game from one week to the next. A scoreless draw with the Portland Timbers and a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake highlighted the Quakes defense during their recent 10-day training stint in Arizona. The team’s multi-goal outburst against Reno shows the next facet of the preseason development is on track.
“We took one step forward today,” said Stahre. “We focused on the defensive things in the first weeks, and now we are putting more and more focus on the attacking parts. We are doing better and better.”
From the opening whistle, the team employed an aggressive press that kept the ball high up the field. Joining Eriksson and Hoesen in the attack were Chris Wondolowski and Vako. Full backs Shea Salinas and Nick Lima were also heavily involved in the Quakes attack, and the scoring chances were plentiful in the first half, despite the squad having only reached the midway point of the preseason.
“It was a great start and we executed a game plan,” said Wondolowski. “Mikael and our coaching staff have done a great job at trying to implement it with us and I thought we came pushing today. It was fun to see. It was compact, we were able to press the ball, win it in good areas, express ourselves and play from there.”
And while the current designated player didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, the Quakes newest DP did, as Eriksson wrecked havoc on the right side of the formation. He and Lima proved a potent partnership, covering for each other in the run of play and pinning Reno back in their own half for much of their shift together. As a whole, the Swede’s integration into the team looked to have taken another big step forward, something he himself agreed.
“It takes time to get to know each other,” said Eriksson. “The more games we play together, the better we will be. Today we had some good combinations and some good attacks. It felt okay.”
The match took on extra significance because of the MLS-USL affiliation between the two organization, which started ahead of last year’s inaugural season for Reno 1868 FC. It has proven to be so successful for both clubs that it was announced during the game that they have extended the partnership through 2019, with an option to take it through 2020.
“We are very excited to announce the extension of our partnership with Reno,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in a press release. “We would like to give each player the opportunity to have his own pathway. By working together on the technical and commercial sides, led by Ian Russell, Eric Edelstein, Andy Smith and the whole team, we are thrilled to announce that we will be extending this partnership together.”
The Quakes continue their preseason with a week of training in San Jose before heading south for a preseason California Clasico against the LA Galaxy on Saturday in Irvine. The Earthquakes play one more preseason game, against local rivals Sacramento Republic FC, before the MLS season begins on March 3.
San Jose Earthquakes first half line-up
Andrew Tarbell; Shea Salinas, Harold Cummings, Yeferson Quintana, Nick Lima; Vako, Florian Jungwirth, Fatai Alashe, Magnus Eriksson; Chris Wondolowski, Danny Hoesen.
San Jose Earthquakes second half line-up
Matt Bersano; Shea Salinas (Joel Qwiberg 65), Jimmy Ockford, Francois Affolter, Nick Lima (Paul Marie 65); Jahmir Hyka, Florian Jungwirth (Chris Wehan 65), Magnus Eriksson (Luis Felipe 65), Tommy Thompson; Vako (Mohamed Thiaw 65), Quincy Amarikwa.