The San Jose Earthquakes begin a challenging three-game road trip this Saturday in the Rockies. Let’s see what they may be up against the Colorado Rapids. I based this on Conor Casey’s formation he used on July 27 when the Rapids faced the Quakes in San Jose and lost 3-1.
Manager: Conor Casey
Current Record: 6-12-5 12th in the Western Conference
When Tim Howard made his MLS debut on August 18, 1998, 15 half of the players on the current Quakes roster were three years or younger. That has nothing to do with his potential performance on Saturday, but I just thought it was an amazing stat that shows the longevity of one of the best goalkeepers to ever come out of the United States. He was dealing with a calf injury the last time these two teams met, but he should be healthy and ready to deal with Chris Wondolowski and friends one more time. Howard announced his retirement from professional soccer earlier this year and is hoping to turn around a season that has seen him give up 41 goals in 21 matches played.
Sam Vines, Lalas Abubakar, Tommy Smith, Keegan Rosenberry
The is the backline that Casey went with at Avaya last month, and it is the group of guys he has called on most of the year to protect the space in front of Howard. They have been asked to take on that challenge more often than they have delivered on it, this group, along with the goalkeepers, have allowed a Western Conference worst 48 goals. Abubakar had a game he is quickly trying to forget, two minutes into the match Cristian Espinoza sent in a cross that was in search of Wondo but instead found the Ghanian’s right foot which promptly skipped past Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Then a little over thirty minutes later Abubakar was part of the trio of defenders that were left watching Vako score his seventh goal of the season after Nick Lima put in some hard work on the wing to get him the ball at the edge of the box.
Danny Wilson, Sam Nicholson, Kellyn Acosta, Jonathan Lewis
The Rapids defense may have trouble keeping the ball out of their net, but the rest of the team is pretty good at scoring against the opposition, and this group is a significant reason why. Other than Danny Wilson the other guys in the midfield are more offensively minded players and the Rapids have the goals to prove it. Jonathan Lewis will set up on the left-wing with Sam Nicholson lining up on the right side opposite of him. From here the pair has been able to produce four goals and four assists while opening up space for the more dangerous attackers for Colorado. More on those attackers in the next section.
Kellyn Acosta could be lumped with Wilson as a mostly defensive-minded midfielder but if you look at the heatmaps of where a lot of his touches occur you see just how much time he spends on the offensive side of the pitch. The way the Quakes offense has been performing; I would expect him being called in to help try to get some goals on the board.
Kei Kamara, Diego Rubio
At the top of the formation, you have to very potent offensive threats. Kei Kamara is the definition of a great journeyman having played for seven different MLS teams in his career. The term “journeyman” might seem like a dig to some, but when referring to Kamara, it is a great compliment. His 123 goals over his career are good enough for fifth all-time in MLS, and he scored 22 goals in 2015 finishing behind only Sebastian Giovinco in the golden boot race.
Diego Rubio is the midfielder that sets up as a complement to Kei Kamara at the top of the formation. Kamara takes up so much attention from defenders that it creates space for Rubio to run around and take shots on goal. He used that space expertly a couple of weeks ago when Colorado visited San Jose giving the visiting team a late consolation goal that may give them hope for Saturday.
At this point in the season, the Quakes are the better team, and even though this game is being played in Colorado, they go into it as the favorites. The Quakes defense is much better than the first month and is healthy and rested. The Rapids offensive style can be used against them especially with fast players on the pitch like Shea Salinas and Cristian Espinoza. If Espinoza cannot go because of the injury suffered last week against the Columbus Crew, Carlos Fierro has now been with the team for almost a month and is looking like one of the fastest players in the league if Monday’s open practice hosted by the Quakes was any indication.