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San Jose Earthquakes look to build on opening result against Whitecaps

Eriksson, Rios aiming for win in 2nd group-stage match.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at San Jose Earthquakes Chris Brown-USA TODAY Sports

One game down, two to go in the group stage for the San Jose Earthquakes.

After a 0-0 draw against the Seattle Sounders on Friday, spirits remain high around the club, and now they turn their attention to the Vancouver Whitecaps (Wednesday, 6 pm PT).

“First of all I think we did a good game against Seattle,” attacker Magnus Eriksson told reporters on a conference call Monday. “I think it was a good [indication] that we have done something good during this horrible time that we’ve been away from each other and couldn’t train. It was a first step and I think it was a good one and now we go for more. The feeling in the group is we want more and we will try to get it on Wednesday.”

San Jose’s trademark style under Matias Almeyda was on full display in their opening game in the MLS is Back Tournament, with the team man-marking, pressing remarkably hard given the hot and humid conditions in Orlando, and hitting a volume of shots on the night.

Eriksson credited the Quakes’ fitness level as a team for setting them up to get the result against the Sounders.

“We train really hard and I believe that we are one of the fittest teams in this tournament,” he said. “We believe in what we’re doing, we run for each other, we fight for each other and of course we wanted to take all three points but we did our best out there. We were fit, we looked strong for 90 minutes and it’s just a corner away where in the end it could be deflected in for a win. But it feels good, the group is good and the mentality is great so we just keep on going here. I have a feeling we’re really strong as a group and out there I think we played really well if you look at [how] we’ve been away for a couple of months. So I’m really happy with the guys and the performance.”

Perhaps the big talking point coming into Wednesday’s game will be which team will come in with an edge. San Jose will be on short rest but have one game under their belts. Due to coronavirus results elsewhere, Wednesday’s game will be the Whitecaps’ first in the tournament.

“For me it’s an advantage,” said Eriksson. “First of all, we’ve been here the longest, longer than anybody else. We have been here for almost three weeks, we played one game, we know what the conditions are, so I’m just positive [about] it. We have a strong group. I think it’s an advantage for us but we still have to go out and do our best. But for sure, we played one game and we know how it is out there with the humidity and everything. We’re well prepared. I’m not worried about that at all.”

While an element of San Jose’s game is to shoot for goal at will, with the team used to racking up gaudy shot totals, Friday’s opener reinforced that attribute. But at the same time, there was evident rust on those attempts, which the players acknowledged.

“I had three — which were not the best shots in my life,” Eriksson said with a chuckle. “We’ve been away from this for a long time...The more practices we have, the more shots we take in creating, the better we will be. The most important thing for me is we reach these opportunities in the game where we have the opportunity to score.”

Forward Andy Rios, who said he understands his responsibility to score and had perhaps the closest chance of the game against Seattle, agrees that the Earthquakes just need to keep putting in the work in the attacking game.

“Yes, I do think I had the clearest shot opportunity in the game, on one of Cristian [Espinoza]’s crosses,” Rios told reporters through an interpreter. “I do understand I need to improve on those opportunities, but we continue to work on that and we all know our coach is helping us through every training and practice on how to improve. I think Wednesday’s match is a perfect example of that so we’re looking forward to and we’re just going to try to maximize our opportunities and hopefully put them in the back of the net.”

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