SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes learned a great deal about themselves in last weekend’s season opening loss to the Montreal Impact, and now they’re prepared to use that knowledge to their advantage on Saturday when they host Minnesota United.
The Quakes have never lost to the Loons, winning both games last year and in 2017, Minnesota’s first season as an MLS expansion side. San Jose will be looking to make it five in a row when MNUFC visits Avaya Stadium, kickoff at 5:00 p.m. local time, though new head coach Matias Almeyda won’t underestimate the opponent.
“It’s a difficult team, like all the rest of them,” Almeyda said via translator during his midweek press conference. “In our work, we never like to think about any team as weaker than another. We respect everybody, and we think the same about everyone. In reality, all games are difficult.”
The Quakes all-time leading scorer against Minnesota is Danny Hoesen, who counts four goals in the team’s four victories. He put two into the back of the net in last year’s season opening 3-2 win at Avaya Stadium and is looking forward to adding to his total this weekend. Hoesen also recognizes that the Loons, 3-2 winners last weekend at the Vancouver Whitecaps, are a much improved team from the last time they visited the Bay Area.
“For sure, we see that,” Hoesen told Pro Soccer USA following Friday’s training session. “When I first came here, I learned how interesting this league can be. One year, a team can be bottom and the next year on top, and also the other way round. They added some good players to their team, and every game is tough, but Matias is preparing us well, and hopefully we will be ready.”
The most significant change for MNUFC was the addition of Designated Player forward Darwin Quintero, a target of the Quakes before signing with the Loons from Club America in Mexico. The Colombian was joined this offseason by MLS veterans Ike Opara and Ozzie Alonso, who have strengthened the spine of the team and given the third-year franchise its strongest ever roster. Quintero, who arguably had the best game of anyone in the league on opening weekend, is no stranger to Almeyda, former coach of America’s chief rival, Guadalajara de Chivas.
“We know and have played against their players,” Almeyda said. “We will face players that make differences on an individual level as well as have a nice collective play. It’s going to be a demanding game as we’re on our quest for our first victory.”
The Earthquakes will have their full squad available on Saturday, as the team came through the Impact game and a week of training without any injuries. Hoesen, who came off the bench in the season opener, will likely play the same role again on Saturday, as Almeyda is expected to name the same starting eleven to face Minnesota United.
Hoesen, the Quakes leading scorer a year ago with 12 goals, missed a significant portion of the preseason in a delayed attempt to secure a U.S. Green Card. He knows his absence pushed him down the depth chart at forward, and he continues his efforts to improve his fitness. The Dutch international hopes to complete the Green Card process during the upcoming FIFA break that begins March 17.
“I’m getting there, just missing a few percentages,” Hoesen said. “Obviously, I didn’t get to play in any of the friendly games, so I don’t have that experience now. But training is going well and I feel sharper and sharper each day. The coach told me to keep my head calm and when I am fully fit, he will use me. I just have to stay calm.”
Hoesen and his teammates completed a full week of training, culminating in a session emphasizing set-piece defending and other dead ball scenarios. Against the Impact, it was for just a few moments when the visitors capitalized in such situations, and Almeyda drilled the players on their responsibilities, something Hoesen appreciates from the new coach.
“It’s been pretty intense, but not quite as much as it was in the preseason,” Hoesen said. “He trains us on every single detail of the game, he watches the clips, he studies the opponents, and he lets us know how we can improve. Every exercise is both to help us improve from the last game and to help us get better for the next opponent. It’s been good and very interesting.”
When: March 9, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: Avaya Stadium, San Jose, CA.
Broadcast: NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+; NBC Sports app
Earthquakes injury report: Out: Kevin Partida (knee surgery).