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San Jose Earthquakes locker room remains tight-knit despite difficult start to season

Mar 3, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Valeri Kazaishvili (11) and Minnesota United midfielder Ibson (7) vie for the ball during the first half at Avaya Stadium. (Neville E. Guard/USA TODAY Sports)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The last time the San Jose Earthquakes tasted victory was March 3, when a Danny Hoesen brace and a third goal from Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili helped the team edge Minnesota United 3-2 at Avaya Stadium. The Quakes have gone winless since.

On Saturday, 70 days on from that successful season opener, the Earthquakes will again play the Loons, this time on their home ground, TCF Bank Stadium, hoping to avoid their worst start to an MLS campaign since 2009.

It won’t be easy, as Minnesota (4-6-0, 12 points) has improved significantly since its last meeting with San Jose (1-5-2, five points) and is now perched at fourth place in the Western Conference. The key change was bringing in Colombian striker Darwin Quintero, a proven goalscorer in Liga MX who has brought new life to a struggling offense.

The Quakes have no momentum to speak of as they head north, having lost three games in a row. The team has scored goals at a reasonable rate, but it’s conceded more, and altogether has struggled to succeed in all facets of the game at the same time. It has been frustrating to both players and coaches. Everyone at the club feels their record is not reflective of their abilities, and nerves inside the locker room are beginning to fray.

“At the moment, we are struggling,” midfielder Magnus Eriksson shared. “It’s been over two months since we won, and that’s too long, of course, but we need to be respectful towards one another and do the same in games.”

San Jose has the worst points per game record (0.63) in all of Major League Soccer, and after their last game, a disheartening 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers at home, defender Florian Jungwirth vented to reporters in the locker room that the team was not putting in the effort needed to get results. It was an honest assessment from the straight-talking German, and it shed some light on a team that is trying to live up to its own high expectations.

“We can always talk about details, game plans, the individual players, and more, but that is not the problem,” head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We are struggling right now, to be sure, and there are a lot of little things, but there are not any problems in the locker room.”

The biggest issue is that the Earthquakes are conceding more goal-scoring opportunities than they are creating, and they are not earning enough luck to overcome those numbers. The game against the Timbers was headed for a scoreless result until Diego Valeri’s late set piece goal gave the visitors the win. Meanwhile, the Quakes never capitalized on their moments.

“I can’t say that it was not a super poor game against Portland, absolutely not,” Stahre added, “But, in an important game, we lacked that quality in the final third of the field, and we had some chances, but we need more chances. We need points, and the bottom line is to score goals and win.”

San Jose hits the road for two straight road games, desperate to get something out of its trip first to Minnesota and then in Vancouver. The Loons pose a difficult opponent, especially in their own home, where they have won their last two. Besides the obvious improvement in adding Quintero, a player that can stretch defenses with his speed and technical ability, Minnesota is seeing midfielder Miguel Ibarra influence games with his contributions. The Quakes centerback tandem of Jungwirth and Harold Cummings will certainly be tested.

The keys for the Quakes will ring familiar: limit the opposition in and around the box, create a smooth transition between the defense and the attacking corps, and improve the interplay in the final third of the field. Do all three, and San Jose may finally get its first three point result since opening day.

Match Information:

When: May 12, 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

Broadcast: NBC Sports Bay Area, KNBR 1050

Live Stream: ESPN+

Earthquakes injury report: Questionable: Tommy Thompson (illness); Out: Yeferson Cummings (ankle), Eric Calvillo (knee)

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