We are just a couple of days away from the beginning of the 2019 MLS season so it’s time we took a look at the San Jose Earthquakes and what are some things to expect or look out for.
How did they finish in 2018?
4-21-9 12th place in Western Conference
Last season was the worst in team history statistically and emotionally. Only two of those wins came at home which was four less than the next worse team but among the sadness were a couple of bright spots. Nick Lima continued to be a workhorse starting every game and playing over 3,000 minutes and finally looks like it’s paying off for him on the national team level. Chris Wondolowski continued to be his legendary, ageless self and now only needs one goal to tie, another legend, Landon Donovan for the all-time goal scoring record of 144 goals.
What is the biggest change from last year?
The signing of Argentinian manager Matias Almeyda dominated the headlines over the off-season. Before last season was even over the Earthquakes front office introduced “El Pelado” to the media in San Jose and he started the project of rebuilding a struggling club much like he did at River Plate, Banfield, and Guadalajara. Almeyda surrounded himself with a familiar coaching staff then went to work on the roster bringing in several South American players to add some depth to his depleted ranks.
D - Yeferson Quintana (11/29/18 - option declined)
M - Jahmir Hyka (11/29/18 - option declined)
M - Chris Wehan (11/29/18 - option declined)
F - Danny Musovski (11/29/18 - option declined)
F - Mohamed Thiaw (11/29/18 - option declined)
F - Dominic Oduro (11/29/18 - out of contract)
M - Judson (12/20/18 - loan from Tombense)
F - Cristian Espinoza (1/2/19 - loan from Villarreal)
D - Marcos Lopez (1/6/19 - transfer from Sporting Cristal)
M - Siad Haji (1/11/19 - SuperDraft)
GK - Daniel Vega (1/18/19 - free)
F - Cade Cowell (1/23/19 - Homegrown)
What’s the new jersey?
The Earthquakes debuted their new kits this off-season to mixed reviews. One person even said, “Seriously, it looks like someone from the front office went down the street to Marshalls and found an old design and said, “Meh, good enough.” That person was me. I will say that after seeing them in person they have grown on me more and I don’t think they are as bad as I initially reviewed. I think the lack of sponsor makes it look plain but that is probably a positive point for jersey purists. They could come out in the alternate 1996 kits for all I care as long as they succeed on the pitch.
Do they have a new Coach?
As mentioned above the Earthquakes shocked the MLS world last October by announcing the signing of Matias Almeyda who had just finished winning five trophies in three years at Chivas. In November the team announced the rest of his staff with Almeyda bringing on Omar Zarif and Benjamin Galindo as assistant coaches, Carlos Roa as a goalkeeper coach, Guido Bonini to oversee strength and conditioning, and Fabio Alvarez to be the team’s kinesiologist. Roa will work alongside last years goalkeeper coach Jyri Nieminen on developing players from the Academy to Reno and up to the San Jose.
Avaya Stadium will enter its fifth season as the home of the Earthquakes and still looks a lot like it did when it opened in 2015. A couple more seating sections were added but nothing major. It looks like the stadium will keep the Avaya name for at least one more season since it was reported in late 2017 that the tech company would give up its naming rights as part of its bankruptcy settlement. The issue of whether to leave the steel support structure that holds up the stadium exposed or covered with some sort of skin seems like it’s not going away. I for one like the beauty of the steel skeleton but I think I may be in the minority, it is something to keep an eye on that is not the team on the pitch.
Projected Starting XI?
That was my lineup in January and if I had to do it again I wouldn’t change much. I would swap Magnus Eriksson for Shea Salinas because if the Swede can find a way to connect with his left foot he can be devastating. In last Saturday’s final pre-season game against Seattle Sounders Almeyda went with: Daniel Vega; Marcos Lopez, Harold Cummings, Guram Kashia, Nick Lima, Vako, Judson, Anibal Godoy, Cristian Espinoza, Magnus Eriksson, Chris Wondolowski. I still think Godoy is capable of contributing and playing at a high level but his bad performance on Saturday has me questioning if he will turn it around.
Expectations for 2019?
Signing Matias Almeyda was huge but it must be taken in context. The league is vastly different now than even a couple of years ago and the Earthquakes are playing catch up so expectations must be kept at a certain level. Certainly winning more than two home games is an expectation but what I most expect is a team that is aggressive and always looking to get the ball in net. A team that is capable of coming back and winning a game after being down two not one that runs out of gas in the final moments. Basically I hope to see a completely different team from last season.