There’s something rather comical in listening or reading someone who isn’t familiar with how the San Jose Earthquakes play under Matias Almeyda come to grips with the sheer oddities of their style of play.
The man-marking system. The pressing and non-stop energy. Constant aggression in attack. And, oh yeah, racking up statistical supremacy in ways you don’t normally see.
On Wednesday, in their MLS is Back Tournament 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Quakes took a lot of corner kicks. The English-language broadcasters on Twitter started to make note of it, again and again.
But guess what? Turns out they broke a league record by taking 22 corner kicks on the night.
22 - @SJEarthquakes attempted an @MLS record 22 corner kicks in their 4-3 win over @WhitecapsFC. History.#MLSisBack— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) July 16, 2020
Combine that with 30 shots taken by San Jose — not an MLS record but pretty close, and standard under Almeyda, and the strategy was pretty obvious: Keep the battering ram of corner kicks and shots beating at the door until it comes crashing down through goals.
And in fact, it worked. While the Quakes have not been corner kick specialists of recent years and fans during Wednesday’s game lamented the volume of corner kicks leading to nothing, they hit pay dirt, twice.
First, Andy Rios hit a “skill or luck?” shot off a Cristian Espinoza indirect corner kick in first-half stoppage time:
A touch from @AndiiRiios and the Quakes pull one back! #VANvSJ pic.twitter.com/eF7Y7yrEuG— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 16, 2020
...And then in the middle of the Quakes’ rally, Oswaldo Alanís headed in the equalizer from Magnus Eriksson’s corner:
QUAKES ARE LEVEL ARE YOU SERIOUS— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 16, 2020
This freakin’ game. 3-3! #VANvSJ pic.twitter.com/U0ZCcFnHZ7
The players mixed up corner kick duties all night, and having two different players score off corners taken by two different players shows the volume approach worked here. Most teams aim for a good volume of chances but seek efficiency. Almeyda’s approach is to dispense with efficiency in practice and just keep setting up set pieces or shooting your shot until enough of them go in.
On Wednesday it worked. Opponents will try to adjust, but you can bet the Earthquakes will find a new wrinkle, aiming to hold a full 100 percent of possession, perhaps, or to take the most crosses ever, really cross off the bingo card.
And if it works? Then you can’t doubt the process, can you?
What do you think? Leave a comment below.