SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes need a win, desperately, as their early season struggles see them wallowing near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. They arrive in Ohio this weekend to play the Columbus Crew, another team that has fallen on hard luck, looking to earn their first road victory over the season.
“We are working hard in training this week and we are on the right track,” Earthquakes head coach Mikael Stahre said this week. “Hopefully, we can win this game against Columbus. It will be a hard one for sure, but we will sure be trying.”
The Quakes (1-3-2, 5 points) made the unusual decision to stay on the East Coast this week following their 3-2 loss at Orlando City last Saturday. Stahre indicated that he hoped the time away from the Bay Area would help his team find focus ahead of the game against the Crew, especially as the team tries to stay positive in the face of a five game winless streak.
“Still, we have lots of energy and spirit in our team,” Stahre said.
They also have lots of goal scored, 11 in six games to start the season, but they’ve conceded even more, 13 in the same time span. They currently sit second to last in the West, one point ahead of the Seattle Sounders, last year’s MLS Cup runners-up.
The Crew (3-3-2, 11 points) have collected only one point in their last four games, a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution last weekend at MAPFRE Stadium, and a recent lack of scoring has been its undoing. Forward Gyasi Zardes leads the team with five goals, while the rest of the squad have combined for six. Federico Higuain is another player to watch, as the Designated Player is the Crew’s maestro in the midfield.
No one on the Quakes has scored more than two goals this year — and team captain Chris Wondolowski, surprisingly, has scored just once. The well-balanced offense is lead by Magnus Eriksson, who has tallied a goal or assist in each of the past five games. The Swedish midfielder, the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, is fitting in nicely with the squad, and he is always looking for ways to get his team on the scoreboard.
“I’ve always seen myself more as an assist player than a goal-scorer,” Eriksson told the team’s website this week. “But either way, it’s always good to help the team try to win games.”
The two MLS originals — both clubs featured in the league’s inaugural 1996 season — have faced off 41 times in the regular season, with the Crew holding the edge with a 19-15-7 record. The Quakes won the last meeting between the two teams 2-1 Wondolowski and former forward Marco Ureña both tallied goals to secure the victory at Avaya Stadium. San Jose is 3-13-3 when playing at Columbus.
Given that the Crew play in the Eastern Conference, it is not as damaging to the Earthquakes’ place in the table if they lose Saturday, but following a tough loss to Orlando the weekend before, the game has taken on much more importance to Stahre, and he does not look at the interconference affair any different than if it was against a Western opponent.
“From my perspective, no. We prepare game by game,” Stahre said. “Sure, I know the system, but for me it about planning to win every game, and right now we need a victory. We haven’t won since the first game against Minnesota.”
The rookie MLS head coach is very pragmatic when it comes to setting up his lineup and formation, but he has shown that he is willing to make a tweak or two as required. With San Jose mired in a slump, he is putting all his cards on the table in his effort to find the right combination of players and tactics.
“We need to win really, really soon, that’s for sure,” Stahre said. “That’s in my mind right now, so it’s time to prepare the team as good as possible, set up the lineup, have as clear a game plan as possible, bring lots of effort to it and try to win the game, and analyze afterwards. Hopefully, we will be analyzing three points.”
When: April 28, 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Broadcast: NBC Sports California Plus, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+