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San Jose Earthquakes leave MLS is Back Tournament proud, pleased with experience

Group confident “the best is yet to come.”

MLS: Minnesota United FC at San Jose Earthquakes Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes didn’t want to end their dream at Disney World, but they will leave Orlando with their heads held high.

The Quakes faced Minnesota United, a club that has become a bogeyteam for them over the past couple seasons, and the Loons’ mastery continued, as they cruised to a 4-1 win in the MLS is Back Tournament quarterfinal on Saturday.

Naturally head coach Matias Almeyda and the players were disappointed to be knocked out of the tournament, but for a team trying to rise up the ranks of MLS, the overall tournament performance was considered a good benchmark to use moving forward.

Almeyda thanked the league for putting on the tournament at all, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage — staying after the end of the press conference to thank everyone involved in the Orlando bubble for all their hard work — and lamented coming up short on the night.

“It’s pretty simple: We were outplayed by the opponent, it’s the fourth time we played them and the fourth time they’ve beat us,” Almeyda said through an interpreter. “In these instances, unfortunately you have to pack your bags and go home, and even though I don’t like to lose and had dreams to keep going, all the players that were here — the players, the staff, the executives, people back home — I thank everybody for the effort.”

Magnus Eriksson scored San Jose’s only goal on the night, from the penalty spot early in the second half, and with the Swedish attacker being linked to a move back to his native country, he shrugged off the speculation and said he’s only thinking about the Earthquakes right now.

He joked he would be happy to go home and see his family again after seeing the likes of Tommy Thompson for 40 days, but also sounded sincere in going through the bubble experience with his team.

“I’m really happy being a part of this team and that’s the one thing I’m concentrating on and thinking about right now. I think we did a great tournament, I’m really happy with the time spent here together. It’s sad that it has to end today,” he said.

Almeyda sounded genuinely touched in the days leading up to the game to be able to work for a short time at Disney World, a place he said he always dreamed of going to as a child. His trademark enthusiasm certainly rubbed off on his team and Thompson was also heartened by the experience from an on-field perspective.

“I’m really proud of the steps forward we’ve taken in this tournament,” Thompson said. “It was a huge commitment for us to be the first team here and to stay as long as we did. I think it’s a testament to where this group is at.

“There’s plenty of lessons to take, whether it’s the comeback win against Vancouver, or the convincing win against Chicago or now this result against Minnesota, we’re going to take the good with the bad and we’re focusing on the future. Because like I said, I think with this group the best is yet to come,” he added.

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