The San Jose Earthquakes got six days between games this week. What a treat.
Yes, the standard in MLS tends to be a game a week, with a handful of midweek games sprinkled in, plus some midweek games in other competitions.
Still, the general rule is a game a week. But not in 2020.
Instead, this season the coronavirus pandemic led to several months of no games, then a month of local tournament play in Orlando, then a couple weeks off, and now the current stretch, a sprint to the finish from late-August to the second week of November. And that’s just the regular season.
The Earthquakes have admitted the fixture pileup took a toll, with head coach Matias Almeyda repeatedly saying the weekend/midweek/weekend schedule meant the team couldn’t train properly and they were suffering in the games as a result. Shea Salinas has admitted the frequency of games is unlike anything he’s ever experienced in his playing career.
For what it’s worth, I think they absolutely have a point here. We’ve seen across MLS that teams are wilting as the grind really catches up to them. Frankly, I think it’s dangerous and this isn’t just a problem for the Quakes — the pace of the schedule does not feel sustainable.
Unfortunately, this six-day gap between games for San Jose is the exception, not the rule. In the month of October, the Earthquakes are scheduled to play seven games, coming off an eight-game September.
Cristian Espinoza is one of a handful of Earthquakes players who’s played in more than two countries so far in his career, and said while fixture congestion is common around the world, the sheer scale of the current pileup in MLS is something he hasn’t seen before.
“I have the experience of playing many games, especially when I was in Argentina playing for Huracán and Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores, but it was definitely not as many games as we’re playing now with these short turnarounds,” Espinoza told reporters Friday through an interpreter. “I’m not sure if we’re the only team in the league that has or will get to only get a little break, having five days’ break before a match, but we don’t take this as an excuse, rather as motivation and I know these things aren’t under our control, but we do what we can. Like I mentioned before, we’re using this as motivation to push us forward to reach the goal, which is to make the playoffs.”
Remarkably, the Quakes are only four points out of a playoff spot at present. They certainly still have reason for hope. But with double gameweeks for the next two weeks after Saturday’s game against the LA Galaxy, San Jose just have to buckle up, push through as best they can, and try and tame the incredibly tough schedule as best as they can if they want to make the 2020 campaign a success. It’s going to be hard, but hope is still alive for now.
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