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San Jose Earthquakes ‘very satisfied’ with draw to open MLS is Back Tournament

Almeyda, Vega and Yueill react after first game back.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders FC Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

It may have been a scoreless draw, but the San Jose Earthquakes exited their opening game in the MLS is Back Tournament Friday feeling pretty good about the performance and the result.

Head coach Matias Almeyda praised his players for getting a result against the Seattle Sounders on a muggy night in Orlando.

“We were facing, no less, the current champion, so the challenge for San Jose was a pretty big one,” Almeyda told reporters through an interpreter. “Keeping in mind we were just able to practice when we arrived here in Orlando, I’m thankful for what the players gave, their interpretation of what we asked of them. We saw a team with soul, with chances, perform in the game and I’m really happy with the game our players played against our opponent, the current champion.”

While a national audience likely felt let down to watch the first 0-0 draw of the tournament, the game was played almost entirely on San Jose’s terms. They controlled possession, the frantic style of play, they man-marked the Sounders throughout, and had the majority of the shots. While most of those shots were wayward, the display was a trademark Almeyda-vintage Earthquakes performance.

Goalkeeper Daniel Vega posted six saves to keep the Sounders off the board, and coming after the Earthquakes conceded seven goals in their opening two games this year, the veteran was pleased with the result by the whole team.

“Ever since we started, the whole team was committed to doing their best,” Vega said through an interpreter. “I think today we had a really great game, not only on the defensive side but on the offensive side as well...We’re happy we’re back and that the team did the best possible [job] tonight.”

Almeyda took a moment to acknowledge the “people from Dallas and the people from Nashville,” after both FC Dallas and Nashville SC had to drop out of the MLS is Back Tournament due to coronavirus outbreaks on the two teams. But he emphasized his satisfaction with a result against a tough opponent Friday within remarkably tight constraints.

“I’m very satisfied with what the players gave. I’m thankful for their interpretation because when one plays football, you don’t just play, you have to interpret what you’re doing. They’ve been willing, ever since we were in San Jose and gave them their at-home workouts, and their willingness to come to Orlando 15 days early. We’re satisfied because the opponent is the champion, so we were at the same level as the champion. For moments we dominated, for moments we suffered individually and as a collective. But generally I’m very happy for my players,” Almeyda said.

There weren’t a ton of fouls called, just 10 on each side and a yellow card apiece, with each team having a penalty appeal that went on deaf ears in the match. But when asked if the tenor of Friday’s game was more physical than the average MLS encounter, midfielder Jackson Yueill disagreed, and said the energy was a manifestation of the tournament format.

“Physically, it’s a normal game,” Yueill said. “I think everyone has come to compete and come to play hard. You only have three games, so each game is very important to win, because if you lose, it lessens your chances of making it through. So I think everyone’s come with a 100 percent attitude and with the weather how it is you have to be focused the whole 90-plus minutes and you have to give it your all each play because it is a tournament. And one mistake can [take] you out of the tournament.”

On the bright side, Almeyda said defender Oswaldo Alanís, who exited the game in the second half with an issue, merely suffered cramps in both legs, which the coach said is going to be normal in this tournament set-up.

The Earthquakes will now work to rest up and prepare for their next opponent, Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

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