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San Jose Earthquakes say Orlando experience has made them “closer than ever”

Team stays positive as their first game approaches.

Courtesy of MLS.

The San Jose Earthquakes’ first game since the coronavirus shutdown is nearly here, and the players feel good.

Ahead of Friday’s group-stage opener for the Earthquakes against the Seattle Sounders, forward Danny Hoesen told reporters during a conference call Wednesday the experience in the “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando so far has been good.

“I’m actually very proud of the way our club is handling the situation,” Hoesen said. “Nobody’s complaining, everybody stays positive, you know, we came in here knowing it was not going to be easy but the way people are handling it, it’s fantastic. I think we are closer than ever. We have our own floor in the hotel, everybody goes to the meals and goes straight back to our hotel floor. But now we try to have as much as fun off the fields, sticking together, staying close, playing games, whatever. Now it’s I think it helps us grow in the last two weeks as a team and you know to be here this early that’s allowed us to focus that early without adjusting too much. As I believe you have teams that come in later, they need to adjust to the dinners, to the training times, to the weather. And for us to be able to do this for two full weeks, hopefully that will help us.”

San Jose’s ethic under head coach Matias Almeyda has been to stress the collective, and while many outsiders grow increasingly worried about the wisdom of the MLS is Back Tournament taking place now with coronavirus raging around the United States, the players’ spirits appear to be high.

Attacker Cristian Espinoza believes the extra time in Orlando has been beneficial for the Quakes.

“I think definitely coming in [early] helped out with the heat,” Espinoza said through a translator. “Adapting was a bit difficult at first but with the training and our energy we were able to adapt quickly. And yes, it was important for us to arrive earlier than the other teams.”

One question that persisted, as of Wednesday, was whether San Jose would be playing two teams in the group stage, after FC Dallas departed the competition with 10 positive coronavirus tests, or if another team would be added to the group to even out the numbers.

Hoesen said the players were still in the dark on what would happen.

“We knew it was possible that a team could drop out because they had too many positive cases and unfortunately for Dallas that’s what’s happening right now. If it changes for us a lot, I don’t know. I don’t know if they’re gonna fill that spot with another team or that it will just stay with three teams.”

In spite of outbreaks on other teams, Espinoza says he feels comfortable in the Orlando bubble.

“Yeah, it was definitely something that we saw coming,” he said. “It’s unfortunate to hear about all the guys with FC Dallas and Nashville, and what they’ve been through. So we try to do as best as we can and I think that the league is doing a great job on making us feel safe, not just for everyone but also for our own club and how we’re managing things.”

Hoesen was understanding of the difficult conditions all around.

“The goal for us stays the same. It’s all challenging — Jesse [Fioranelli, San Jose’s GM] keeps informing us every day about it and it’s not easy for the MLS organization to deal with these problems, but I’m sure that they want to find the best way possible. But for us two or three games to go doesn’t change and we just need to get as many points as possible to go through the group stage.”

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