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Three things to watch for as the San Jose Earthquakes host Minnesota United

Can the Almeyda-era Quakes get a first win over the Loons?

MLS: Toronto FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes will play their second straight home game to start the 2020 season on Saturday against Minnesota United FC. With another game on tap, let’s go over three things I’m looking out for for the Quakes on Saturday.

New year, new trajectory vs. the Loons?

Strangely, Minnesota was San Jose’s second opponent in the 2019 season, too, and the Quakes’ home game ended with a 3-0 loss. On the bright side, perhaps, all three goal scorers that day — Darwin Quintero, Miguel Ibarra and Harold Cummings (own goal) — are no longer on their respective teams. But the Quakes found no success against the Loons in 2019, losing the road clash 3-1 as well.

Matias Almeyda spoke of wanting to turn the page after a difficult time last year against Minnesota, but can the Quakes have Minnesota’s number this time around? Even with the likes of Quintero and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone out, MNUFC are coming off a road win to start the season and look like a tough team again this year. Can Almeyda get a handle on Minnesota this time around? Will be fascinating to see.

Midfield options

Almeyda said that Brazilian midfielder Judson, hobbled in the preseason with a knock, was available in the season opener against Toronto FC, but Almeyda said he stayed on the bench as a tactical decision.

TFC outdueled San Jose, however, and Judson’s ground coverage and physical bite seemed to be missing on the day. Maybe he just wasn’t fit enough to really take a leading role, but after an attack-heavy midfield in the season opener, it seems prudent to swap someone out and put Judson in. If that happens, who makes way? Jackson Yueill seems pretty automatic as a starter at this stage, and so does Cristian Espinoza, although he could shift up a line to the forward line. Would Magnus Eriksson go to the bench? Would Danny Hoesen? Regardless, it seems like the midfield could use more defensive solidity against Minnesota, and a change or two seems likely in the lineup overall.

Will the defense build on opener?

Believe it or not, the group that probably had the best day against Toronto was the defense. Andy Rios was called for a penalty on Jozy Altidore — defense couldn’t do anything there — and Richie Laryea’s goal from the run of play was fairly fluky because Daniel Vega’s kick save landed right in his lap. Plus Oswaldo Alanis had a goal and an assist on his MLS debut, pretty good!

So even with two goals conceded, the defense was pretty decent, and can they build on that promising debut with a better outing against Minnesota? A back four of Tommy Thompson-Guram Kashia-Alanis-Nick Lima is pretty good, and there are options like Florian Jungwirth and Marcos Lopez who could come in at some point, too. This seems like a unit that could be a real strength for San Jose to build on as a foundation in 2020, but the proof will be in the pudding of consistent performances.

What do you think about the things I’m thinking about? What are you thinking about before Saturday’s game? Let’s chat in the comments below!