Week two of the San Jose Earthquakes preseason camp is in the books, and now the regular season opener looms large on the calendar — The Quakes begin their 2018 MLS campaign in four weeks time, March 3, against Minnesota United. So how has training gone this week, and who are the names making headlines?
While he missed the first official Media Day of the preseason, newly signed designated player Magnus Eriksson made it to San Jose just before the weekend. The Swedish league scoring champion last season looked fresh and fit in his first training session, and he looked forward to bolstering the Quakes attack in the season to come. (LINK)
Last Saturday saw the club host a training session at Avaya Stadium that was open to season pass holders (nee: season ticket holders). The event closed with a series of intra-squad scrimmages — the inaugural Black & Blue Scrimmage, suggesting that this will be an annual event — in which players played short-field games in front of the approving crowd. (LINK)
By the start of the week, the team packed its bags and flew to Arizona to continue its preseason regimen. New defender Yeferson Quintana arrived from Uruguay and made his training debut on Monday. Second-year defender Nick Lima, who has spent most of the month with the U.S. men’s national team, joined the team as well. By midweek, the entire roster was assembled for the first time this preseason, and Lima, the last arrival, told Ted Ramey on this week’s The Soccer Hour that he hoped to parlay what he learned in his time in the national team camp to help him grow in his sophomore season. (LINK)
Meanwhile, across the continent, MLS formally announced David Beckham’s Miami project as the next expansion team. It was a bid that nearly died back in November, according to the global soccer superstar, but new investors were brought in, and the effort was saved. Good news if you want to travel to South Florida for road games starting in 2020, the year Beck’s team begins play, but the future of the Hella Cup, MLS Edition, between the Quakes and Sacramento Republic may be in jeopardy. (LINK)
The Earthquakes have been busy signing up youth players this off-season, specifically two teenagers right out of their Academy: defender Jacob Akanyirige and midfielder Gilbert Fuentes. The youngest ever signing by San Jose, Fuentes was feted by his hometown newspaper, the Tracy Press, on making the jump to MLS. (LINK)
Both Akanyirige and Fuentes, who will be 16 years old when the MLS season begins in March, are unlikely to feature with the first team from the get-go, but the trust general manager Jesse Fioranelli has shown in the pair in signing them to professional contracts — and the message it sends to others in the Bay Area and Northern California aspiring to be professional soccer players — can’t be overstated, argues Joel Soria of Quakes Epicenter. (LINK)
Despite the youth movement in San Jose, it will be the team’s oldest player, Chris Wondolowski, who will deservedly get the headlines throughout 2018. Entering the season, the Quakes captain trails Landon Donovan by 12 goals for the all-time MLS goal scoring lead. Wondo joked that he won’t get them all at the beginning, maybe, but to be patient as he goes about his business. Geoff Lepper at MLSsoccer.com provides all the details. (LINK)
A new acquisition that might make an impact even sooner is defender Joel Qwiberg, who two years ago was playing in the third division of Swedish soccer before helping his team IF Brommapojkarna earn promotion in two successive seasons. Qwiberg, born in Colombia, but raised his entire life in Sweden, elected to move closer to his native country by signing with San Jose. He is hopeful that MLS will be the perfect fit for his ambitions. (LINK)
A returning player, one not named Wondolowski, may be the key to the Quakes success in 2018. Following his team Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, Florian Jungwirth is poised to take his talents to the midfield in 2018, and he can’t wait. New head coach Mikael Stahre is backing the Germans move to a defensive midfielder role, as well as hoping he will become an even more vocal leader in the team. (LINK)
Lastly, the Earthquakes played their first preseason match this week — a three part set of 30-minute games with the Portland Timbers — where every member of the roster, all healthy to start the year, featured for San Jose. First round draft selection Paul Marie endeared himself to Quakes fans by getting a red card just minutes into his debut, and goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell made an important penalty kick save to earn the Earthquakes a scoreless draw. (LINK)
The Quakes continue their desert trip this coming week. They will play Real Salt Lake on Wednesday morning before returning to San Jose later in the day. The following weekend, the team is back in local action when the Earthquakes host their USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC in a friendly at Avaya Stadium on February 10.
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