The San Jose Earthquakes will be without first-year manager Matias Almeyda after it was announced that he is going to be suspended for the Quakes next two matches after being sent off in the Quakes 4-0 loss to LAFC. Can the Quakes continue their run without their fearless leader? It didn’t seem to be an issue against Vancouver Whitecaps, but now they face a team they have never beat: Orlando City FC. Let’s see what they may be up against on Saturday.
Manager: James O’Connor
Current Record: 9-12-7 9th in the Eastern Conference
Last Five Matches: W-D-W-D-L
Going into his eighth season in MLS Brian Rowe has struggled to get consistent playing time before this season. In 2019 he has started all of Orlando City’s matches except for two, and he has them on the edge of the playoff line. He has proven to be an effective goal stopper who is not having the type of season that is turning heads, but he has been competent enough for Orlando to have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. After last year’s disaster between the pipes that saw Orlando breaking the record for most goals allowed in a season, supporters of the team are probably ok with a keeper that is “effective enough.”
Kyle Smith, Lamine Sane, Robin Jansson, Kamal Miller
Part of the blame for allowing 74 goals last season would usually go to the backline but aside from Sane none of these guys even played in MLS last season. This year they form part of a group that is allowing almost one less goal per game than they did last year. They have been crucial to Orlando staying in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Quakes take a lot of shot, but if this past month has shown us anything, it’s not the number of shots you take but how many times they reach the goalkeeper and make him work. This group has done a better job than last year of keeping teams from teeing off on their keeper giving up just over 13 shots per game.
Oriol Rosell, Sacha Kljestan, Mauricio Pereyra
This group received a considerable boost on July 30 when 29-year-old Uruguayan Mauricio Pereyra was signed as a Designated Player. Pereyra spent the last seven seasons in the Russian Premier League, but now he hopes to be the difference-maker in the Lions playoff run. Kljestan is not having his best season but is still one of the more creative midfielders in MLS. It was just three seasons ago that he scored six goals had 20 assists for New York Red Bulls, and some of that magic can show up at any time.
Dom Dwyer, Tesho Akindele, Nani
Unfortunately for second-year manager James O’Connor, the offensive part of his lineup did not have a transformation like his defense and they have been struggling to get the ball in the net. The bulk of the offensive load has been carried by Akindele and Nani who account for over half of Orlando’s 35 goals this season. If the Quakes can neutralize those two, they can control the pace of the game, which is what they love to do.
Orlando City is a good team that has a real shot at making playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but the Quakes are the better team, and they are playing at home. The Quakes road to the playoffs includes games against Atlanta United, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers, so they need to get points at home against weaker opponents. I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a “must-win” game but from here on out the chances for the Quakes to get easy points get much smaller.