For the first time this year, members of the media were invited by the San Jose Earthquakes to come to take a look at their rebuilding project. Under a bright California sun, the team opened up their training ground and made several players available to interview. The day was capped off with an interview with the clubs new manager Matias Almeyda who is in charge of leading this project. It was a neat event, but the team just got together two days ago, so the players are slowly getting into shape. If this event were a sandwich, I would describe it as ham and bologna, nothing special but much better than no sandwich at all.
The player interviews were similarly tame, but there was still some good notes. If you read my projected lineup article, you saw that I was concerned about how Shea Salinas would recover from his foot surgery in December. Initially, the team said they expected Salinas to miss at least some of training camp. Salinas said the operation was successful and the tests he has taken so far have all been positive and doesn’t expect any setback from the injury. MLS tends to have a lighter training regiment than other countries for many reasons, but some wonder if this affects a players fitness. Anibal Godoy mentioned that although the team had only been training for a couple of days, it was a more rigorous routine than they had last year. He said it was reminiscent of the type of training they do in Panama and other South American countries which made him more comfortable.
The players were well aware of how bad last season was, and none shied away from mentioning that. When asked about how the team gets better after last season Florian Jungwirth said, “It starts with being a team. We weren’t one team last year when we tried there were too many problems.” Just about every player mentioned how many matches were lost in the last 15 minutes and that nobody in the locker room ever gave up on each other, but things never came together.
There were no huge promises or bold predictions from any players or coaches, just honest opinions from a group that suffered through a humbling season last year.
When Almeyda was asked how he plans to change the culture in San Jose, he responded, “I’m not here to change a culture, I am here to adapt a culture.” Such a modest answer is something I have come to expect from “El Pelado” but it is more proof that he is not taking MLS lightly, his resume doesn’t mean anything to him. He has one concern, and that is winning like an Argentinian Vince Lombardi. What style of soccer is he going to play to get those wins? According to Almeyda, “ We will play an offensive-minded style where all the players run, and they all play. We don’t play with many mids we play a lot of forwards.” I have personally heard Almeyda talk about the players “running and all playing” together at least three times, so Quakes fans who have gotten used to a slow, possessive team are in for a surprise. For those concerned about the Quakes not signing flashy big name players Almeyda had this to say, “We don’t sign big names, we sign smartly in positions I felt we had a need.”
There is little you can take from a 45-minute training session on the second day of camp, but it is clear that everyone at 1123 Coleman Ave knows last year was unacceptable and this season must be better. Now the question becomes can Almeyda and crew get the most out of their players and catch the league off guard or is this another plan that gets crumbled up and tossed into an ever-growing pile.