Matias Almeyda spent a long time talking to his San Jose Earthquakes side after a 5-1 loss to LAFC at Banc of California Stadium Wednesday.
So long, in fact, that it was well over an hour after the final whistle that he arrived to conduct his postgame press conference with reporters. And the generally loquacious manager was tight-lipped when asked what he said to his players after the game: “I dedicated a large amount of time to reflect on what happened,” Almeyda said via interpreter.
After a valiant-but-futile effort in a tightly-contested California Clasico against the LA Galaxy on the weekend resulted in a narrow loss, the LAFC defeat was another performance in a string of them for the Earthquakes against the Southern California side where San Jose was decidedly second-best throughout.
Veteran Shea Salinas said although it’s been two losses in two games back, the manner of the results was completely different.
“I think the LA Galaxy game was completely different from this game,” Salinas told reporters postgame. “We had some bounces not go our way and we were a little unfortunate. But then this game obviously we were outmatched.”
Almeyda admitted the margin for error for his team is razor-thin when they play LAFC, and that was laid bare again.
“The reality is we always know we’re going against an important team, from their game and each one of their players,” he said. “And against these opponents there’s something that’s even more important: It’s to maintain 95 percent concentration, and attention with what we’ve studied about the opponent, what we’ve set up with the gameplan, individually and collectively. But I’m aware whenever you make a mistake against this team they hurt you.”
The Quakes didn’t have the energy needed to spring results on all comers, and defensive breakdowns time and again put them in a hole. Meanwhile, the attack was nearly nonexistent, with the usual strategy of shooting early and often unavailable, their only goal coming as a consolation in the final moments of the match.
Almeyda displayed his usual even keel while explaining that the team just don’t have the same edge they displayed when they were in Orlando at the MLS is Back Tournament, and said there are several factors contributing to that.
“What happened since Orlando, we had a very big change at the football level for the worse. So training session days are shorter; The search to see who I can count on and who I can’t count on for next season on the field; The uncertainty that one day you train, another day you can’t because of the smoke, one day you play, another day you can’t, but they’re all things that don’t add, they subtract. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality.
“Why is it a reality? Because for this team to be competitive, we have to play with 200 percent concentration and execution and to play the way they did in Orlando, which we lived 40 days with passion and love. There’s a short amount of time to work and correct mistakes, and from here to the end of the season it’s going to be a very difficult place. We’ll fight to change it, but many times, talking about reality helps.”
Salinas agreed there’s been a change around the club since they’ve returned from Orlando.
“This season’s been funky, we’ve gotten pumped up and ready to go three different times, one at the start of the season. Then we got a break, and we’ve got to get ready for Orlando, and another break and now ready for this season. So that’s been a little weird and throws everyone off, so it’s the same thing every team is facing. We want to have the mindset to overcome adversity. It has been weird but at the same time, everyone else has to do it, so how can we be stronger, mentally and physically, to push through these two difficult games?”
One thing to note is that the Earthquakes still haven’t played a game at Earthquakes Stadium since March. That changes Saturday, when they host the Colorado Rapids for the teams’ first meeting of the year. Perhaps that will brighten the mood? After Wednesday’s loss, it appears the Quakes’ season may be reaching a tipping point.
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