With the 2019 MLS season inching closer and most of the significant additions to the squad already in the Bay Area I decided to take a crack at what I think the San Jose Earthquakes lineup will be for at least part of the year.
The Quakes latest signing, 34-year-old goalkeeper Daniel Vega, was more to bring in experience to a young corps of keepers than a signing for the future. That signing also brings the Quakes roster up to 29 players right below the limit of 30, so we can expect this group to be the one to take the pitch at the start of the season.
Matias Almeyda is known to play the 4-2-3-1 in an aggressive attacking style. This aggressive tactic can leave a team open to the counterattack and after last years dismal defensive performance that can be a cause for anxiety for Quakes fans. If it works, it can lead to a team that creates a ton of opportunities and keeps opposing defenses on their toes. It is an excellent chance for Danny Hoesen to have the breakout year he has been looking for since arriving in San Jose in 2017.
JT Marcinkowski should be the game one starter in my opinion. Andrew Tarbell is three years older with more MLS experience, but I think Marcinkowski has more upside than Tarbell. Both keepers had a similar Goals Against Average (Marcinkowski 2.2 and Tarbell 2.07) last season but where the big difference lies is ball distribution. Tarbell has trouble getting the ball to go where he wants on goal kicks. They work with him in pre-game and at halftime every game, but he can’t seem to find his rhythm. Marcinkowski, on the other hand, is more aggressive where he places the ball and is more accurate this is why I would go with Marcinkowski on opening day.
Surprisingly the area that seems to need the most help will mostly stay the same. Guram Kashia will have a full season under better conditions to team up with Harold Cummings to protect their young keeper and improve over last seasons disastrous defense. Nick Lima is Nick Lima, and the iron horse of the backline should start the season at his usual right back position. His speed and aggressiveness on the pitch should help with the counterattacking possibilities Almeyda’s style may create. The biggest hole in the backline was that of left back, and the Earthquakes enlisted 19-year-old Peruvian left-back Marcos Lopez to plug it. The pressure will be on Lopez immediately as fans have been imploring the front office to do something about that positions for years now.
The midfield is an area of the pitch that in the rare time’s things worked the way they were supposed to last season you could almost see what Mikael Stahre was trying to accomplish with his strategy. Unfortunately, the times it worked were few and far between which left the middle of the pitch a mess with players scrambling to catch up to their marks or making bad passes. To fix that problem Almeyda brought on a 25-year-old Brazilian defender that goes simply by Judson and 23-year-old Argentinian right winger Cristian Espinoza. Almeyda likes to play a defensive mid next to a more attacking player which is why I teamed Judson up with Tommy Thompson. I originally had Florian Jungwirth paired with Judson, but that seemed like a defensive oriented pairing although Flo has some of the most productive numbers of any of the Quakes defensive mids.
In front of them, I have the trio of Shea Salinas, Vako, and Espinoza. Salinas has received some flak for his play the last couple of seasons, but he is not a natural left back. He turns 34 in June and is coming off of foot surgery but he is still one of the fastest players on the team and putting him in a more comfortable position will allow him to play more to his style. In the middle is Vako who has not been a prolific of a scorer as Hoesen but can take advantage of the spaces created when defenders are scrambling trying to cover Hoesen. The right wing is covered by Cristian Espinoza who joined the Quakes on loan from La Liga side, Villareal, though he last played for famed Boca Juniors in Argentina.
Danny Hoesen is going to have a breakout season in MLS. I am not saying it is going to be this season, but it’s coming. Last season was good with Hoesen netting 12 goals along with five assists, but I won’t be happy until he gets more than 15 in a season. Almeyda’s more aggressive style may be just what he needs to push him over that number.
So there it is my guess for the matchday one starting lineup. We will get a better picture tomorrow when the team hosts media day but for now, do you agree with any of my choices or have I got it all wildly wrong? Let me know in the comments.