The San Jose Earthquakes embraced the challenge of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando and made the most of the experience, winning their group, winning a knockout game and advancing to the quarterfinal round. Now what?
Now, they try to keep at it. With San Jose now able to host closed-door games and the Quakes scheduled to be back in action next week, the next scheduled chunk of the weirdest MLS season in history rolls on.
But with the hotel living and lack of outside distractions in the Orlando bubble gone, will Matias Almeyda and company be able to replicate the conditions that led to the strong run in Florida?
That remains the big question, and if the Quakes flag upon their return to action out west, we’ll know it was a function of unique circumstances. But I certainly wouldn’t count San Jose out just yet.
First, they’re getting a nice long rest after a quick succession of games. While the Earthquakes seldom looked fatigued in Orlando — maybe the only team in the tournament to look as fresh throughout — their high-energy style means the margin for error is tiny, and the risk of fatigue setting in is enormous. But with a substantial break after returning home, that should give them time to recharge before the next run of games.
Consider as well the way the league is rolling out the schedule, just six more games for the time being. I think this can work, to an extent, in the Earthquakes’ favor, if they consider it a discrete chunk of games like a tournament. It’s not quite the same because the stakes aren’t as apparent game-to-game (in other words, you’re not looking at Game 2 as make-or-break for a team’s chances of advancing in a tournament), but you can kind of orient your mind to treat it as another short tournament, no need to worry about the next chunk of games right now, etc.
And we saw the Quakes thrive behind closed doors in Orlando. The players repeatedly spoke of missing the fans, and surely they will, but they don’t need the motivation of the crowd to get them up for games. Perhaps their opponents will need that, but they won’t.
At the same time, the Quakes’ upcoming schedule is tough: at LAFC and Seattle, against MLS is Back Tournament champions Portland and two against the LA Galaxy (although to be fair, they’ve been poor all season), so this run could be tough if San Jose aren’t at their best. Will they be? That remains to be seen, and it should be interesting to watch a team that looks like it’s on the rise.
Of course, it won’t hurt if they wear the gold shorts and buttered popcorn jerseys too, just for good measure, right?
What do you think? Leave a comment below.