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Salinas assesses good, not-so-good to open San Jose Earthquakes’ season

Veteran offers honest assessment of how it’s going.

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Six games into the 2021 season, the San Jose Earthquakes have a 3W-3L-0D record, with plenty to both like and to work on.

Their goal difference is positive so far, +2, which has to be one of the aims for the season after they reached the playoffs last year with an eye-watering -16 goal difference. By and large, the defense has been strong, generally mostly being undone by golazos, and the attack has started much better than last year, with the emergence of Cade Cowell seeming to provide an immediate boost in terms of production.

In assessing the season so far, utilityman Shea Salinas is upbeat about the Earthquakes’ prospects.

“So far I’m really optimistic about our team,” Salinas told reporters during media availability on Wednesday. “I think the only outlier game out of the six has been the Houston game, where we didn’t have much possession and weren’t able to build out of the back. Other than that the other games we’ve created a lot of chances, we’ve had possession of the ball, we’ve controlled the game. I think against Seattle and Portland, both good teams that were well organized defensively and we were just unable to break them down in the final third and when we were able to we didn’t finish our chances and they were. But I still think those two games there’s a lot of positives to take from so I think if we continue to control the game, we’re gonna have good chances to win.”

Salinas did admit one of the early issues for the Quakes has been conceding first, and often early: “I think scoring first would be important for us also this season,” he said.

San Jose have conceded first in their three losses — two of those were Quakes shutouts, ultimately — and they’ve come back to win one of their matches in which they conceded first. While the team has yet to have a catastrophic breakdown and lose their heads completely, Salinas admits they’ve been caught out on occasion when they aren’t totally locked in.

“We’ve had some lulls, about 5-10 minute lulls in the game where teams have scored, especially early on in a few games where teams have scored early on us. So that’s something to be aware of going into the Kansas City game is, let’s be sharp from minute one and let’s continue to control the game,” he said.

One of the topics of discussion around the Earthquakes in recent days is whether opponents are changing their defensive strategy to counter San Jose’s pedal to the metal style. With Sporting Kansas City coming to town on Saturday to play the Earthquakes, a team that is not afraid to press, Salinas said the aim, as always, is to play Quakes soccer as well as possible.

“I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the Houston game where they did high press, and then they had success, so I think other teams watch that, and say, ‘Oh we can high press them as well,’” he said.

“And so the first part of the game is the most difficult, where the other team has the most energy. It’s where they have the freshest legs, and so they’re able to press as well, what’s happened in the last few games is they’ve gotten an early goal from that. But as the game wears on their legs get tired, they’re not pressing as well and we’re able to continue to break them down so we’ve been wearing teams down which is our goal, and that’s the point of having control of the game is to wear teams down. And so I think, to start out the game we still want to maintain our style, we still want to invite teams to press, and we want to try to build out. And that’s how you wear teams down. Maybe there is some risk management that we could do a better job of. But I don’t think we’re gonna change too much from our style of trying to maintain possession and wear teams down,” Salinas added.

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