The San Jose Earthquakes are getting antsy, and rightfully so. In the first month to start the MLS season, the Quakes have only played two games, a win against Minnesota and a loss at Sporting Kansas City, and a good rhythm has been hard to come by.
San Jose did entertain Liga MX side Club Leon last weekend in a friendly, also welcoming back Landon Donovan to the Bay Area, but with four starters missing the game due to injury or international duty, it wasn’t a complete opportunity for head coach Mikael Stahre to build better chemistry within the squad.
“A friendly game is still a friendly game, so there were a lot of changes in the lineup,” Stahre said in his post game comments. “This bye week gave us a chance to practice more, but also it has been hard to establish a rhythm. Now it is nice to start to play games every weekend. You can practice, you can play friendly games, but real games give you the real answers.”
One player that shined in the loss to Club Leon is newcomer Magnus Eriksson, who, like he had the week before in Kansas City, covered a lot of ground in both offense and defense for the Quakes. The DP midfielder, who finished top of the scorer’s list in his native Sweden last year, was signed to bolster San Jose’s offense, but he has proven to be an even better all-around team player. He, like Stahre, is ready for a more steady diet of games.
“It’s been a weird start with the breaks,” Eriksson said over the bye week. “Players have routines in their lives. Knowing that we are playing games every week makes it feel like the season is starting for real.”
Saturday afternoon, in a nationally televised game against New York City FC, the Earthquakes will be back at full strength, and the extra training the last two weeks will be put to the test against one of the top offenses in Major League Soccer. World Cup winner David Villa headlines the NYCFC attacking corps, and Stahre knows his defense will have its hands full.
“We are playing against some top players this weekend against New York City FC,” Stahre told Center Line Soccer this week, “but we have some really good players also.”
The Quakes attacking corps has looked impressive to start the MLS season, scoring five goals in the first two games, but the defense has been suspect, allowing five goals itself. Harold Cummings, who anchors the Earthquakes back line, started earlier this week for Panama in a 6-0 loss to Switzerland. His centerback partner Yeferson Quintana is still getting accustomed to the league. Together, they will need to be in top form against NYCFC.
Following his amazing goal for Georgia earlier in the week, Vako is back in San Jose and ready to start against New York. He is joined by forward Danny Hoesen, along with Vako the team leader in goals this season with two, in an offensive group that has the tools to exploit the visitor’s defenders. Eriksson and team captain Chris Wondolowski round out the attacking four.
The rest of the starting line-up will be the same as Stahre employed in the Quakes first two games of the season. The mixed results have given the coach some perspective on the challenges his team faces, but the players are responding the best they can in getting prepared for New York City FC.
“We have been working hard on it,” Hoesen said. “After a game like the last one, defenders are frustrated. And when you look at it again, you see some individual mistakes, and the guys take the blame for that while the rest of the team tries to help them. Obviously we can score goals. We can score goals every game, and if we can make sure of defense stays compact as a team and not concede as much space, we are going to win games. It’s not that people are pointing fingers, but everybody is trying to help one another.”
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New York City FC game information
Time: March 31, 2018, kickoff at 5:00 p.m.
Place: Avaya Stadium, San Jose, CA.
San Jose Earthquakes projected starting lineup: Andrew Tarbell; Shea Salinas, Harold Cummings, Yeferson Quintana, Nick Lima; Vako, Anibal Godoy, Florian Jungwirth, Magnus Eriksson; Chris Wondolowski (C), Danny Hoesen.