The San Jose Earthquakes are feeling pretty good about themselves this week. They are coming off a 3-1 win against Minnesota United, snapping a seven-game winless streak and collecting their first road win since last August.
Unfortunately the Quakes (2-5-2, 8 points) don’t have control over their slate of opponents, otherwise they would likely elect to play MNUFC — who they’ve vanquished twice for their only two wins this season — every week.
No, that responsibility goes to the MLS schedule makers, who instead of giving the Quakes more opportunities to face the Loons, matched them up with the Vancouver Whitecaps for three games this year. The scheduling oddity, required by the league’s unbalanced number of teams, pits the two Western wayfarers and opponents in last year’s MLS Cup playoffs against each other for Game 1 tonight at BC Place.
Not that San Jose will mind, really, as the team is riding momentum from its 3-1 victory at Minnesota over the weekend and it looking to collect successive away wins for the first time since 2015.
“It’s a really important one, the second game in one week,” Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “They are a totally different opponent than Minnesota, so there will be some adjustments in the game for sure.”
Against the Loons, the Earthquakes started with a more possession based attacking corps, adding winger Jahmir Hyka to the mix and moving Chris Wondolowski to the bench. An injury to the Albanian in the second half opened the door for Wondo to make an impact on the game, and with the score tied at 1-1, he delivered an assist on Danny Hoesen’s game winning goal.
The Quakes captain is likely to see more playing time against the Whitecaps (4-5-2, 14 points), as Stahre will need to rotate his squad during a stretch when San Jose will play three games in eight days. Following their visit to BC Place, the Earthquakes return home to face Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers DC United this weekend.
“This game will be played on a turf field, but it will be a totally different game than in Minnesota,” Stahre said. “We have another game this Saturday against DC United, so it is an interesting week for sure.”
Against the Loons, Florian Jungwirth wore the captain’s armband for San Jose. Stahre was quick to praise the German defender’s commitment to helping the team overcome a seven-game winless streak that stretched over 70 days. Jungwirth is one of many players on the squad that he sees as instrumental in influencing the team moving forward.
“A guy like Florian is really important for us,” Stahre said. “He’s a good player, but he’s also a really good guy and a leader. Like our captain Wondolowski, like Magnus, like Godoy and Tarbell and etc., all of them are solid and we are a team and they are all sitting in the same boat. I am really happy with them in that sense.”
The Earthquakes will be tested by a Vancouver side known for physical play, especially on set pieces. In its last game, the imposing forces of Kei Kamara and Kendall Waston combined to score a set-piece goal in the dying seconds of stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw against the Houston Dynamo. San Jose will be hard pressed to match the Whitecaps’ big bodies on both sides of the ball.
In addition to not having Hyka available against the ‘Caps, centerback Yeferson Quintana is also out due to injury. If the Quakes choose to play Vancouver at its own game, they might turn to physical forward Quincy Amarikwa to start on Wednesday. Fatai Alashe, another more imposing player on the squad, is in turn a good option in midfield. For sure Stahre will have Harold Cummings in the starting eleven, as the Panamanian centerback has plenty of experience dealing with opposing big men.
The game will be played at the Whitecaps’ home stadium, BC Place, site of last season’s lopsided 5-0 Earthquakes’ loss that knocked them out of the MLS Cup playoffs. It’s a new season, so talk of redemption was muted, but these Quakes are confident they can put that result behind them. Instead, the team is looking to build on the momentum gained in winning at Minnesota.
“Now we can put more focus on the technical and tactics things as the victory gives us that chance,” Stahre said. “We still have many things to improve, but it it is easier to handle the situation when you have a victory with you, of course.”
When: May 16, 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
Broadcast: NBC Sports Bay Area California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+
Earthquakes injury report: Out: Yeferson Cummings (ankle), Eric Calvillo (knee), Jahmir Hyka (ankle)