Matias Almeyda may have considerable experience in the playoffs from his time at Chivas de Guadalajara, but his compatriot and player Cristian Espinoza is entering the playoff gauntlet for the first time.
The San Jose Earthquakes will be playing their first playoff game with Almeyda as head coach and Espinoza will be playing his first career playoff game Sunday, when the Earthquakes take on Sporting Kansas City in the opening round.
While it’s a new experience for Espinoza, the single-elimination format isn’t so different from cup games.
“For me, this will be the first time playing in any kind of playoffs, but I treat this as a final, every game, because the one that wins is the one that gets to move on to the next round,” Espinoza told reporters through an interpreter on Thursday.
San Jose will be playing Sporting, the top seed in the West, for the first time in 2020 Sunday. Espinoza discussed the process of preparing for a new opponent in novel circumstances.
“We’re getting ready really well for the upcoming game and we’re looking into the opponent, studying every detail. And we’re really looking forward to the day of the match, on Sunday, so we can play the game,” he said.
“Matias has been studying the opponent a lot this week, and has been working with us on how we need to approach the match and approach the opponent. Kansas has shown to be a very difficult opponent, they are strong and there’s a reason why they finished in first in the Western Conference in the regular season. We need to be focused and precise whenever they are attacking, and they’ve shown they have a solid defense as well. They have a complete roster, we need to perform almost perfectly in order to take the game and win the match.”
With San Jose being the lowest seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs, it’s safe to say they are big underdogs against Kansas City. But Espinoza indicated there is plenty of belief inside the Earthquakes locker room, as you would expect.
“The reality is that Kansas is the favorite for everyone, however for us internally on the team, we are the favorites. So it’s really a matter for us to get ourselves together and do everything possible in order for us to achieve the good results,” he said.
So we’ll see if Espinoza can help pull out magic with the Earthquakes on Sunday in his first playoff experience, underdogs or not.
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