QUAKES ON BOTH COAST, Vol. 1 No. 10
Source: @sjearthquakes instagram feed
Matt: Another run of three home games in ten days. A historic first win against LAFC, and SJ pulls down another 5 points out of a possible 9. They’re still knocking on the proverbial playoffs door, but 5/9 points is a good rate. That pace throughout the year would turn into about 55 points, which would typically be enough for a playoff spot.
Josh: True! This year is tricky with only seven teams going to the Playoffs, but it was nice to have a home series with at least one point every game. This home series also included Women’s Soccer Appreciate Night and Pride. Tuesday night finished with Wondo coming on the field for his 400th outing! A lot to celebrate over a busy ten days! Only things I can think to make it better would be San Jose announcing an NWSL partner team and paying Matt Hatzke to comment in the booth!
Matt Okay, this time I’m asking for 74 words again (in honor of the 1974 founding of the club, dear reader, if you weren’t sure where that came from), but this time we have to talk about all three games in just 74 words.
Josh: LAFC: Great communication and persistence for the literal win - Espinoza shined. Salinas leading the energy for the team as starting Captain.
Vancouver: Too much time wasted looking for cracks in defense and resetting the play back to Keeper. Felt like Ebobisse and Nathan were only ones playing to win.
Minnesota: Thankful for the point - playing 70+ minutes shorthanded (ShortNathaned) and holding the line is exciting. Cowell looks like he’s overthinking. Ebobisse starting to connect.
Matt: Sloppy passing could’ve doomed SJ at home, but LAFC did the same. Espinoza and JT hustle saved the day, Nathan wrote checks his body couldn’t cash. Against Vancouver, Quakes played down with low energy and slow, sloppy ball movement; they got the tie they deserved. Off to a great start against MNUFC, but Nathan’s red simultaneously halted momentum and forged a crucible for SJ to “win” a tie with 10 men for 79 minutes.
Okay, that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
Josh: Maybe for you! Do you see how I had to drop words like “the”… and I like words. Kudos to your effort, though.
Matt: The Quakes look like they’re on the cusp of something, but I don’t think the team’s progress will be a straight line. Everyone likes and wants to win, but given Almeyda’s perspective from the beginning of the season about this being a young team, player development will probably edge out grinding out a win match after match. What is indisputable from this stretch is Espinoza’s strong role generating offense, how much of a defensive powerhouse the tandem of Judson and Nathan has become, and Ebobisse’s demonstrations of how his skills can quickly get things moving for the 408. Last night he put on a few short clinics on how he could dissect the Minnesota offense in transition. And get this: Nathan has never lost a game in a Quakes uniform. Uh oh, did I jinx it?
Josh: Maybe, but the team is certainly showing that hard work and high performance spirit. I agree that we’ve got some clear leaders in the different parts of the field: JT, Nathan, Espinoza, I’d add Salinas. But notice what’s missing - the midfield isn’t locked in. Yeuill has been involved in several recent goals against and a lot of overbooted set pieces. I’m not sure Remedi is getting his chance to emerge as a leader with Jackson back. And Ebobisse is starting to figure out this team and how to work with their skills - exciting possibilities!
Matt: I agree about Yeuill. I think he’s one or two tools away from being a reliably dangerous player on the field. The next two games are @ LAG and home vs. Colorado. Both teams are in playoff position, but with Chicharito seeming to still be recovering from an injury, SJ has a good chance for a draw or win. If they can create momentum at the start of the game, I think it’s an even chance for a win. Colorado looks to be the tougher matchup at this point.
Josh: And in between hopefully we get to enjoy a few minutes of Cade Cowell’s All-Star debut. We’ll see if he or Yeuill are tapped for the World Cup qualifiers, as well as a few Colorado players, so the Labor Day weekend game has a lot of variables in the mix.
Matt: As I was often told years ago, the only constant in this world is change. The World Cup Qualifiers guarantee that for sure! Okay, tell me three positive takeaways from this set of games.
Josh: 1. The defensive crew is solid. We’ve seen JT, Nathan, Judson, Beason, and Alanís control the box. The only goals against in this series were an own goal and a scramble immediately following the red card.
Matt: I agree 100%, great minds think alike! The defensive improvements of the Quakes are allowing JT to keep the Quakes in games. He’s demonstrating heads up plays, like the corner kick that he thought should be a goal kick. He got caught out of position but sprinted back in time for the play. Players who don’t yield in moments of confusion make the day (see: Nani vs. Buchanan last season).
Josh: Yeah, he’s playing more focused and leads by trusting his back line. My #2: Up front, we’re seeing more and more highlights. Espinoza and Chofis have been challenging goalies repeatedly. And as Cowell and Ebobisse figure each other out, more good things will happen.
Matt: Again, agreed. I am loving the offensive improvements and energy from Espinoza and Ebobisse. Chofis too! That’s also helping to give space for Cowell to develop and Wondo to come in and try to be a game changer.
Josh: I’d really like to see Wondo finish his career with a few more goals. And 3: Have to include a quick shoutout to the Coaching team for subbing in a wall of strikers at the 80th minute - love the effort to finish strongly. We haven’t seen this lead to a lot of stoppage goals, or classic Wondo moments, but it feels like applying the right pressure at the right time.
Matt: I hear you on this, but when the Quakes don’t have the lead, it’s been looking like 10 minutes isn’t quite enough to either catch up or get the go ahead goal. If all things are equal, I’d like to see those subs a little earlier if the Quakes aren’t leading. My 3 is: Starting the game on the forward foot. This energy, when relentless, earned the win against LAFC, the draw against Portland, and the draw with only 10 men against Minnesota.
Josh: That makes a lot of sense. Stoppage time is not a guarantee, so I can see your point about starting the strong offensive earlier. Okay, any other advice to help the Quakes break through the bubble with the Rare Ep 3 of the Clásico or back home against the Rapids?
Matt : If the Quakes are able to recapture their crisp passing and ball movement and avoid falling back too much on defense, they should win at least one of the next two games. If the defense can consistently limit the other team’s offensive options by forcing matchups and maintaining pressure, this team is good enough to beat anyone in the conference on any given night.
Josh: Wow! They should let you deliver the hype speech before Training on Friday - nicely done.
Matt: You know me, I’d do it for a jersey. Especially a signed one.
Josh: Kit Matt strikes again! Your recommendation for the front lines is going to be the harder request, so I hope the Coaching team hears you. It would be great to go to SoCal and cause trouble - Vamos SJ!
Rating on the Quake-o-meter Scale for Games 18-20 (Richter goes to 9, OURS goes to 10)
Final Score on the Quake-o-meter Richter Scale: 7.5/10
Current % chance of a San Jose/New England MLS Cup Final: 0%... though the Quakes are knocking on the playoffs door!
Twitter: @massmatt_matt @joshuaglenn