With their first game of the 2018 Major League Soccer season in the books, the San Jose Earthquakes breathed a collective sigh of relief. After rushing out to a three goal lead over Minnesota United, the Quakes had to survive two late goals from the visitors at Avaya Stadium to sneak out a 3-2 win. Mission accomplished, but not exactly to plan.
“We controlled the game and scored two goals in one minute, which was important,” Stahre said at training this week. “When we scored the third goal, all of us felt that the game was over. But when they scored the second goal, there was a little bit of stress. It was a relief at the final whistle. Hopefully we can learn from this and be focused and humble. We have to be mentally and physically prepared for the last minutes and stoppage time.”
Fortunately the Earthquakes have a bye week, with their next game scheduled for March 17 at Sporting Kansas City, so Stahre is taking the opportunity to take the lessons from the season opener and apply them to practice. The Swedish head coach is not letting his players take it easy during the short break; rather, he sees the opportunity to continue the progress they have made through the preseason and the win against Minnesota.
“Now it is a new game, and we are in the season,” Stahre said. “We can push them more now this week, for example, with more double sessions. We have to increase our fitness also. We look at having a bye week now in a positive way, especially when you win the game, you can approach it in a positive way.”
The Quakes looked a bit gassed near the end of the game, something Stahre admitted, and the team still has work to do to play his preferred pressing style of play for a full 90 minutes. Fortunately for San Jose, the team enters the bye week relatively unscathed on the injury front, with all the first choice starters participating in the daily training sessions.
Yeferson Quintana, the 21-year-old Uruguayan defender on loan from Peñarol, made his MLS debut against Minnesota, but he was forced from the field with a foot injury early in the second half, changing the Quakes defensive look at a time in the match when they were dictating play. The towering centerback was back in training this week and is expected to be available when San Jose travels to Kansas City.
“There’s no problem at all,” Stahre said. “He twisted his ankle, so probably he can practice this afternoon or next week, absolutely no problem.”
The bench was a bit thin on the defensive side Saturday night, as the Quakes continue to work on signing their first round MLS SuperDraft selection fullback Paul Marie. They were also without centerback Francois Affolter (illness) and left back Joel Qwiberg (coach’s decision), leaving former Seattle Sounders defender Jimmy Ockford as their only defensive substitute.
“Francois was a little bit ill during the week,” Stahre shared. “He had the flu. We selected the roster after considering the game plan and we looked at different scenarios. Qwiberg is doing well, like all the players actually. We have a good roster now and all of them are really competitive. It was hard for the coach to select the line-up, and it was really hard for the coach to select the 18.”
One player that was a lock to start was Danny Hoesen, who scored two goals in the Quakes 3-2 win and was named the MLS Player of the Week. The Dutch forward has been near the top of his game since arriving for the start of preseason, having trained on his own back in Europe for nearly two months prior. On Saturday night, playing at the point of the Earthquakes attack, the 27 year old made life miserable for the Loons.
“Danny came in really fit for this preseason, and that has helped him,” Stahre said. “He is not just a technical player, one who scores goals, but he works super hard, and that’s why I am really impressed and pleased with him. He’s not just a lazy star with some technical abilities, he works hard and is a team player. When you combine the quality he has with the team effort, that’s fantastic for the coach.”
The Earthquakes will take the bye weekend off before resuming their preparations on Monday for their upcoming trip to Sporting KC, the team’s first road game of the season.
Anibal Godoy and Harold Cummings, both starters for San Jose, were called into Panama’s national team squad for the upcoming FIFA international break. Los Canaleros will travel to Europe to play friendlies against Denmark (March 22) and Switzerland (March 27) as they make preparations for this summer’s FIFA World Cup for Panama’s first-ever appearance in the tournament. Godoy and Cummings are not expected to miss any playing time with the Earthquakes, as the games coincide with a break in their MLS schedule.
Tommy Thompson led a group of Earthquakes that traveled to Nevada midweek to feature in San Jose USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC’s preseason game against Real Monarchs SLC. Thompson scored a penalty kick goal to give Reno a 1-0 win in their last tune-up before the USL season begins. Fellow Earthquakes Homegrown signing goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski made multiple saves and kept a clean sheet for 1868 FC. Quakes midfielders Luis Felipe and Eric Calvillo, forward Danny Musovski, and unsigned defender Paul Marie also started the game.