Final Tremors: Quakes Finish Preseason, Look to Face the Five Stripes
QOBC Vol. 3 No. 2 - Feb 22, 2023
Josh: It’s almost here! Just a couple days until the opening weekend of MLS 2023. And the preseason matchups did what San Jose does - gave us hope! Will it just be to let us down? I say no.
Matt: Put me on the optimism train - while preseason is a mixed bag in terms of long-term prediction, wins against Monterey Bay, DC, and Minnesota are definitely promising. The New Jersey Red Bulls are a team that I love to hate, partly because they always play with intensity and pressure. And when it works against your team there’s little to do as a fan other than be frustrated that your team’s composure and cohesiveness aren’t measuring up. No matter who you are, tuning up against the Red Bulls is a tall order.
Josh: Starting where we left off, what looked like a cold & rainy night had me following the Monterey Preseason friendly online, instead of down by the other bay. Daniel started, and the Quakes left with a 2-1 victory, finished by Daniel Munie making his first SJ goal by stealing a header from Benji Kikanovic.
Matt: Benji’s a team player and a giver, I don’t think he minded. Okay, maybe he did a little! It was good to hear – not see, because we couldn’t! – that Ebobisse broke the ice and got his first goal in 2023. Hopefully we see his first “official” goal on Saturday!
Josh: I’m going with “yes we will”! Then came the Coachella MLS Friendly… series? I guess it wasn’t a tournament. The Black & Blue went 2-1: beating DC (2-1) and Minnesota (4-1), but unable to score against the Red Bulls of New York (0-2). Exciting and interesting to see goals scored by Espinoza (3), Munie, Monteiro, and Tsakiris, right?
Matt: Huge Espinoza fan here. I think he’s been a big part of making sure the Quakes’s fans' attention didn’t leave the pitch for the last couple of years. In addition, San Jose needs Monteiro to keep up the scoring this year in order to avoid a middling season. And I’m glad Tsakiris didn’t disappear during the winter months. His challenge will lie in the fact that other teams now know he’s there. But watching him play, you can see he welcomes the challenge. One Quake whose challenge is unfortunately off the pitch, though, is Nathan. I’m sure he will be fist pumping plenty from the sidelines! And I hope he doesn’t rush back from ACL surgery…you’ve got to do that right.
Josh: Agreed. Nathan drove the energy and the tone for the San Jose back line, and a lot of the field, so he will surely be missed. But GM Leitch quickly got on the phone and brought MLS celebrity Jonathan Mensah out to the west coast. Woah - I mean, they’re paying for him for the next five years, but that has a lot of us excited and wondering.
Matt: That one blew my mind. I think it’s a brilliant move for the Quakes, who got him for a real deal. I don’t think anyone can out-Nathan Nathan, but Mensah’s bringing a different kind of real deal. Though he captained the Crew to the MLS Cup two years ago, he had some challenges early on in his career that would have probably shortened the career of many. Instead, he appears to have worked through them and matured. That perspective and experience will be valuable to this team.
Josh: Experience could absolutely be the subtitle of the roster moves leading into the 2023 season. Speaking of recruiting experience, I couldn’t help but notice the Earthquakes rotated Goalkeepers each game. Apparently that starting spot is still up for grabs! MLSSoccer.com predicts Daniel will start. But none of their writers believe our Earthquakes will make the playoffs this year, so grains of salt.
Matt: But JT was in the GK kit for the Active Fault promo, as well as an IG stating “ready for year 6!” I think that increases his predicted odds as starting, otherwise it would feel a little bait-and-switch to me. Living in New England, I watched Tom Brady become the starter even though the guy in front of him did nothing wrong, but that’s usually the exception, not the rule. I hear a lot of people say “but look at his stats, JT wasn’t good!” but if you watched the games you knew it wasn’t really a GK issue. That all being said, if the Quakes have a rough start with a couple of late goals allowed, Gonzalez may just need to make the change.
Josh: Could also be that he’s also a handsome homegrown. But I think the fans will want to see the front four from the preseason and JT in the box, so I’m going to agree with you. Speaking of that Active Fault jersey - did you order one yet? Does your panel of experts agree with me? I think it’s great to see San Jose embrace a pattern, and there are mountains here… but that’s not the brand? Feels like we should’ve seen more seismograph?
Matt: Even though the interwebs and picture quality have come a long way since the early 1980’s, I learned from the Americana jersey a few years ago that you have to see it in person. While black and blue with little white sometimes is a little too bruise-y for me, I appreciate the “Active Fault” shockwave pattern, which is definitely mountain-y as well. And Californians love to say it: “We’ve got everything! Beaches! Mountains! (Traffic!)” FWIW, kit expert A. says it is the best SJ jersey ever.
Josh: I mean, we do; and I trust his opinion. I’ll be watching to see how the jersey looks out on the field against Atlanta on Saturday, and will note who is in goal. Our colleague Bryce seemed pretty positive about the new striker for ATL and winning away is hard. But Atlanta has had a lot of change in the GK spot, so maybe we’ll see 2-1 San Jose?
Matt: San Jose benefits from playing Atlanta, who is still in the process of jelling, now instead of in a month. The Five Stripes just signed Miguel Berry, a forward from DC, in the last week, though many Atlanta watchers say what they REALLY need is a strong midfielder. If San Jose’s defense, with the support of Gruezo in the midfield, can play a cohesive 90’ in the face of an intense crowd, they could hold back the Atlanta attack. My prediction is a 2-2 tie - only because it is in Atlanta, who knows how to bring the fans and the noise. If this was in San Jose I’d be more optimistic.
Josh: I’m sorry that we’ll be doing split coverage since both San Jose and New England will be playing in the same time slot. But readers - stay tuned to both Quakes on Both Coasts and Revs on Both Coasts for all your favorite banter. And Vamos SJ!
Current % chance of a San Jose/New England MLS Cup Final: 55% - We’re saying there’s a chance!
Twitter and Instagram: @QuakesCoasts