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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Florian Jungwirth

Fiery defender played his way into the lineup yet again.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Florian Jungwirth has settled into a reliable presence in the San Jose Earthquakes lineup over the past four seasons, and he solidified his hold on a starting center back spot in 2020.

Much like the 2019 season, the German’s spot was not assured to kick off the campaign, with Matias Almeyda looking elsewhere to fill the position, in 2020 with newcomer Oswaldo Alanís alongside returning vet Guram Kashia.

But after playing just 27 minutes off the bench in the first four games of the season, Jungwirth was brought back in, and he was a fixture the rest of the season.

But his role in the back shifted in a subtle way in 2020. Before Alanís arrived, Jungwirth was the finesse guy, the center back who played well with the ball in the back, mostly next to Kashia. But with Alanís really known for his passing prowess, Jungwirth became the defender whose job was to put out fires and yes, to just boot the hell out of the ball sometimes to get it out of danger.

Here are Jungwirth’s stats in 2020:

Florian Jungwirth 2020 Earthquakes Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 19 18 1,612 0 0 4 1 5 0
MiB Knockouts 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 1 1 120 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 21 19 1,733 0 0 5 1 5 0

So I think there’s a logic to moving Jungwirth to the more blunt force object among two passing center backs — every team needs a guy to throw his body on the line, to make the last-gasp tackles, and the Earthquakes’ playing style means there are definitely going to be jailbreaks at times — and among the players on the roster, I think he was comfortably in the top two among central defenders and therefore deserved his starting spot.

In looking at his advanced stats on FBref.com, however, there’s one category in which Jungwirth was truly elite in 2020 — pressures. The rest of his defensive stats were mediocre to poor compared to other MLS defenders.

And while I think Jungwirth can still do a job and would definitely be good depth, the now-32 year old seems like perhaps the ideal would be for him to move to that depth spot and the club find an upgrade moving forward. Again, the Quakes’ style means there are definitely going to be defensive breakdowns at times, but after they shipped an eye-watering number of goals, upgrading the defense remains a priority, and after getting a new right back, Jungwirth’s spot is the one to target next.

I do think in focusing on his on-field numbers and such, we do lose some sight of some of the intangibles Jungwirth brings to the team. He’s obviously got tons of experience, he’s an obvious leader, and his fire and determination fit hand in glove with the Earthquakes ethos and in particular this era’s. Almeyda requires players practically bleed for the jersey, and Jungwirth brings that attitude every time he plays.

So I get why he remains a useful member of the squad and I think he can keep that role moving forward. Perhaps he can find a slot similarly to Shea Salinas, whose on-field role has morphed lately but who remains a key contributor, albeit on more limited minutes. Jungwirth keeps earning his way to playing time, and you wouldn’t bet against him doing it again in 2021. But maybe it’s time to make him more of a rotation option and bring in some reinforcements in defense to lift the tide for the Quakes overall. In that conception, he’d still very much play his part, while also staying fresh throughout the season. We’ll see how the coming season unfolds, for Jungwirth and the Earthquakes overall.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.