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Weekly Kickback: 11/18/19 Edition

Going down the soccer rabbit hole.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes, like the rest of Major League Soccer, is quiet this time of year, but there is always soccer to talk about. From all-star formats to my projected lineup, this is what has been kicking around my head for the last week. Yes, I am releasing a projected lineup in November of 2019 over three months before the start of next season. Don’t judge me, or if you do judge be gentle, my psyche is weak.

New All-Star Game Format

Last Wednesday, Major League Soccer announced its location and opponent for next year’s All-Star game. The game will be at the shiny, new Banc of California Stadium home to LAFC against a group of Liga MX All-Stars. Playing against a group of Liga MX players, my favorite decision the league has made in years. It offers both another avenue to sell the league to more Latin American soccer fans and also serves as a sort of measuring stick for the quality of the modern MLS player.

That or Liga MX fans take over one of the newest MLS stadiums, and the Liga MX players embarrass the “modern” MLS players as they and most people expect. Whatever the outcome on the pitch, it is going to be a more entertaining match than MLS vs. some big-name European club that doesn’t want to risk any of their star players.

Quakes have most of their starting lineup under contract

After the Quakes released their roster moves last week, we got our first real look at what the formation might look like next year. After pulling out my whiteboard and writing down some guaranteed starters, I realized how complete the starting eleven is this far from the start of the season. Of course, Matias Almeyda will tell us that anybody’s position is up for grabs, but based on his strategy last season, we can make an educated guess.

This is what I came up with. There is definite room for improvement through trades or signings, but if the Quakes had a match this weekend, I would think this is the lineup they would go with. The biggest question is obviously Cristian Espinoza and his status going into next season.

The 24-year-old was a vital piece of the Quakes turnaround but was only in San Jose on a season-long loan from Villareal. If they can’t figure out a way to sign him permanently, the front office is going to find at least a similar replacement. They have two DP slots and a pile of money to start with.

Speaking of those two DP spots. The other part of the lineup that can use an upgrade is the striker spot that was usually filled by Danny Hoesen or Chris Wondolowski. I still believe that Hoesen can score 20 goals in a season but he has never been able to put his skills together in his time in San Jose. A lot of players flourished under Almeyda’s guidance last season, but Hoesen’s performance and minutes actually went down. In 2018 Hoesen was scoring a goal every 207 minutes, but last season that dropped to a goal every 293 minutes. The Quakes are not in desperate need in that position, but with the questions around Hoesen and Wondo’s age must have Fioranelli making phone calls and watching videos from players all over the world.

UEFA Euro 2020

There is very little going on in MLS, so one has to go deep down the rabbit hole to find interesting news nuggets, and this is what I came up with. Guram Kashia and Vako have been regular call-ups for the Georgia National Football Team for the last several seasons. In late March of next year, Georgia will have at least one match as they try to make it into the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.

The Crusaders take on Belarus on March 26, 2020. If they win there, the next match would be five days later against the winner of the North Macedonia vs. Kosovo. Get your VPN and map of Eastern Europe ready.

Missing those players for one match at the start of the season shouldn’t affect the Quakes season, but both are key players in Almeyda’s lineup.