San Jose Protects the Park for Four More Points
QOBC Vol. 3 No. 5 - April 4, 2023
Photos: Joshua Glenn
Josh: We finally got a break from the rain and storms out here and I was able to return to PayPal Park. Some areas are still dealing with a lot of water, but San Jose was blue skies and a lot of blue jerseys during the homestand. And yes, the Active Fault Jersey looks great in person. If they sold replicas and were a little less expensive, I’d have one.
Matt: Those are great pics, I wish I had been with you! Even better, you got to see Espinoza get two past Steve Clark to seal the victory. But I’m getting ahead of myself…what happened first?
Josh: On the 25th, the Quakes and Toronto held each other to a scoreless draw. Yet again, the crossbar slowed down the San Jose efforts. San Jose tried to balance the formation against this opponent, but was unable to get the ball into the back of the net. I’m not sure why Sean Johnson took so long to end up with a team, but he showed that he’s still a great Keeper.
Matt: It was a little weird to see Johnson in Toronto gray, but I’m thrilled he’s no longer in pigeon light blue. GK JT continued to make his case for the starting role with San Jose, with a great play in the 12’ with a diving header to beat Vázquez to Johnson’s punt that had soared 3/4 of the way down the pitch. That very likely would have been a goal.
Josh: Even though he admits it was an in-the-moment decision that he might not make again, that header was super exciting and gritty! I can see Baldisimo playing a strong defending midfielder role, where he has stepped up during Gruezo’s absence in that way. However, there seems to be an energy missing in the middle 18. The defense is playing strong. When the team is down in the opponent’s 18, moments are created, albeit not finished. But getting through that middle has been hard - unless you’re Fullback Rodrigues!
Matt: I see Baldisimo as still adjusting to the team, but I hadn’t thought about covering ground for Gruezo. Good point. And you don’t want to rush him back after a hamstring injury. I did worry about some of Baldismo’s hard play against Toronto, which was reminiscent of Remedi - I loved his stopping ability, but the number of yellows really piled up. You need that hard stop midfielder in the second half, but you can’t play that way for the whole game.
Josh: Then on the 1st, no foolin’, I got to cross through the gates, enjoy some local food truck fare, and soak in the energy of PayPal Park. The Ultras were on fire in their new Supporters’ Section and the Quakes delivered 3 points against the “You Took Our Team” Dynamo.
Matt: I love love love love love food trucks. What did you eat, and did you sit with the Ultras?
Josh: I enjoyed “I Love Cheesesteak” (whose online presence is cryptic, but their sandwiches are great) from San Jose. I did sit in the stands on the bench sides, which was a very different experience. I didn’t sit with the Ultras, partly because I didn’t wear black (that’s one of their rules), and partly because I also love the other end where the Seismic Union get down for 90+ minutes. What did you see from home?
Matt: After racing back from Gillette, I had about 20 minutes to settle in and get my Quake on. One tiny note for the Apple TV interface - is it possible to put the most recent/live game at the top? Probably because I was in a rush, I clicked on the top option on the Quakes screen, which was the previous game against Vancouver! While both teams had starts and stops, two stats bore out my impression that San Jose was a team with more belief in themselves that night. For example, the Quakes led the Dynamo 13 to 6 in shots and 5 to 2 in corners. Visible to me on TV (but not from the stands, to be sure) was Houston’s body language coming off the pitch at halftime: exhausted and so negative it was almost visibly poisonous, even though the score was even at 1-1. My big takeaways from that night: My worries were borne out in the first half – Baldisimo’s play led to the Houston PK; watching the almost goal when Espinoza megged Steve Clark in the 57’; and then after the OBVIOUSLY PK-worthy foul in the 64’, Houston Coach Ben Olson was literally spitting mad. Additionally, I think San Jose’s set pieces are improving, and in both games there were some near misses in front of the Toronto and Houston goals. I’d love to see those start to connect with the net soon!
Josh: With a couple tap-ins this fortnight, the team would have more points and Espinoza would be leading the league in assists. It seems that Coach Luchi likes to call for a “park the bus,” but there was a long time in the second half where the Quakes weren’t even pressing into the Houston half with any sort of urgency or hustle. Fatigue made it look like there should’ve been a couple more subs at the 60-minute mark. Subbing in Kikanovic & Bouda at the 86th minute, and then Beason in stoppage to rest Monteiro would be fine if everyone was still moving. From my angle, however, from 60-86 minutes, our Boys in Blue were out of springs in their step and could’ve used that support several minutes earlier.
Matt: The substitutions were classic - sub in a striker with 5-10 minutes to go if you think there’s a chance for one more goal, then sub in the defenders to lock it down. At the risk of sounding like I’m lowering the bar, let’s remember how many times in 2022 a late-conceded goal transformed a win to a draw or a draw to a loss. It has only happened once in 6 games so far this season, and that was against the opener in Atlanta against the team with Europe’s latest footy obsession Thiago Almada. Maybe the Quakes players and staff knew Houston was going to play it out while quietly letting it go.
Josh: I’ve heard they are actively pulling detailed scouting to prepare, so you’re probably right. Glad you made it home to tune in! The schedule can be challenging - I guess it’s good your two teams are on the biggest gap in time zones!
Matt: Yes, though I would have happily watched the Quakes game on a Sunday evening. Or if the Revs game had been on a beautiful New England spring afternoon instead of night, the game would have been warmer AND I wouldn’t have been rushed. I’ve heard the decision to have all games at the same time was to have everyone who follows MLS know there would be something on at 7:30, but one overall result has been soccer fans watching LESS soccer this season, not more. Lots of people have confirmed this on social. If there were Saturday games at 1pm, 4pm, 7:30 pm, and 10:30 pm, and at least one Sunday afternoon and evening game, people would be checking throughout the day to see if something was on. And that would translate to more eyeballs on MLS and, coincidentally, Apple TV.
Josh: The way it’s written on MLS.com, they head it up with “Schedule Predictability”, which I can see, but you raise some good points about the broader fan experience. Both of the major American Football fans have that experience of “It’s Saturday/Sunday. You’ll find me watching my sport.” But before the NFL and College footballs start back in the Fall, MLS could be filling in that space. And for going to the stadium, there are many weekends where catching a match in the afternoon would be better for families and for weather.
For the Great 408, a lot of travel in the month of April: away in New York, home for Sporting KC, then away again for RSL and Austin. You’ve seen the Red Bulls more than I have - without Nathan, maybe Baldisimo and Judson are the Quakes muscle to counter the “disruption” that NYRB is known for?
Matt: “Disruption.” So kindly worded. The New Jersey Red Bulls are off to a rough start, but seem to mostly match the team they’re up against. They are also undefeated at home so far, but the scientist in you would point out the small sample size. If the Quakes can get on the board first and keep their composure, I think they have a chance at 3 points. The Red Bulls are a team that can beat themselves…you just have to let them. As for the next three, they are all vulnerable. SKC should leave San Jose without additional points, and then if the Quakes can get 3 or 4 points from RSL and Austin they will be in a strong position.
Josh: I’m hopeful that the Blue & Black have two games to find their footing, and then can step up to a pair of in-conference away games to finish April with an even better position in the standings. I’m thinking they can accumulate ten points before May Day. But wherever they will be, we got you, Quakes! Vamos SJ!!
Quake-o-meter for Games 3 & 4 (Richter goes to 9, OURS goes to 10)
Final Score on the Quake-o-meter Richter Scale: 7.6 /10
Current % chance of a San Jose/New England MLS Cup Final: 45% - both teams are on their way up!
Twitter and Instagram: @QuakesCoasts
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