SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes enter the abbreviated World Cup break without a win in six games following Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution. Danny Hoesen scored twice for the Quakes, but a pair of defensive lapses allowed the Revs to gain a share of the spoils at Avaya Stadium.
The Quakes made their first move of the upcoming transfer window, acquiring Georgian centerback Guram Kashia with Targeted Allocation Money. He will bolster a defense that gave up six goals on its two-game homestand. Kashia will be eligible to play for San Jose starting July 10.
With very little momentum and a tough part of the calendar on the horizon, here are three thoughts on the Earthquakes’ game against the Revolution and their path moving forward.
Harder, stronger, better, faster
Even though the team has only one win since the season opener, the coaches and the players have not given up on the season. It is frustrating for all involved, to be sure, to see even their best performances relegated to the trash heap, but that hasn’t eroded away everyone’s commitment to turning the ship around and salvaging something of the season.
“We take every game really serious,” Earthquakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “Now we prepare every game like a final, actually, even if we are really, really far from the red line. We have to prepare for every single game and try to win it. Play for the fans, play for the ownership, and play also for the teammates. For me, that is important.”
The Quakes are often associated with a never-say-die attitude, and no other player exemplifies that more than the captain, Chris Wondolowski. His two goals against LAFC last weekend were wasted when the team’s defense let them down, and against New England, it was some of those same liabilities that kept the Quakes from earning their first win in over a month.
“I thought that our energy was good,” Wondolowski said. “I thought we came out and executed. It was good to get that goal early and put pressure, but again, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. I sound like a broken record, but that’s kind of been our M.O.”
When individual errors are at the root of a team’s struggles, the imprudent action is to point fingers and assign blame. Such a counterproductive response has been largely avoided in San Jose, where the approach moving forward will be centered on building consistency through more targeted training and preparation.
“It is easy to be a coach when your team is winning, but you have to show leadership,” Stahre said. “You have to make the plan even if you are struggling. That is the hardest part. As long as I am the coach for the San Jose Earthquakes, we will put in maximum effort every single day.”
Doin’ it right
One bright spot in the last few games has been the reawakening of the Quakes’ offense. Stahre has settled on a 4-4-2 formation that plays with a diamond midfield, pushing Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili to the tip, just behind the striker pairing of Hoesen and Wondolowski. The tactical change has put all three attackers into positions that play to their strengths.
“Even though we are struggling at the moment, we have to take all the positive things now and try to make it even better. We are creating chances for the moment, and our strikers Danny and Wondo score goals. That is really important. We create more chances. We provoke the opponent more. We have a little bit more direct approach than in the beginning of the season.”
“I think that we are definitely starting to find our rhythm. I think Danny, Vako, and I are starting to play off each other a lot better and find that cohesiveness. I think that we need to try continue to get crosses, but quality crosses, not crosses that just hit the first guy and get cleared out. I thought on the second goal, Nick did a great job picking out Danny, and we need more of that.”
Nick Lima made the hustle play of the game in chasing down the ball along the right sideline ahead of pinging the ball to Hoesen in the area. His self-assessment dovetailed nicely with Wondo’s: Lima didn’t feel he was doing enough to deliver the ball consistently into the box. However, the full back made it clear that he needed to provide balance with his defensive responsibilities as well, and that was his number one goal moving forward.
The wide players in the diamond midfield are tasked with helping on both sides of the ball, and Tommy Thompson and Magnus Eriksson were entrusted with those roles against the Revolution. Both players are known more for their attacking prowess, especially Eriksson, and the Swede expended a lot of effort on the right side of the formation. Thompson, making his first start of the season, liked what he saw from the offense, but he knows the team can’t shirk its defensive responsibilities.
“We want to score goals. We want to continue putting opponents on the back foot, and that’s the main goal to get goals at home, and we are doing that, which is a positive, but at the end of the day, you can’t be letting in four goals at home like last game and two at home today. It’s not just on the defenders, it’s on the entire team, we have to stay locked down as a unit and start to get results.”
Around the world
The Earthquakes announced their first summer signing this week, as Kashia, centerback and team captain at Dutch side Vitesse, will join the team and be eligible to play when the MLS summer transfer window opens on July 10. The Georgian international can’t get to San Jose soon enough, as the defensive back line needs all the support it can get.
“To reinforce select positions during the upcoming transfer windows, we began by identifying someone that fit the criteria we were looking for in a high-quality central defender and this was Guram,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a club statement. “In addition to his extensive experience, he is a leader both on and off the field and we’re confident he will be an important addition to our squad.”
Kashia has made 293 appearances across all competitions during his eight years in the Netherlands. The Tbilisi native has also been a fixture in the Georgian national team, earning 64 caps in a 10-year international career. Kashia will be reunited with Vako in San Jose, as both have featured for Vitesse and Georgia.
The Quakes’ frailty on defense is well documented, and the constant shifting of players in and out of the lineup, as well as formation changes, have made it difficult for the group to gel around a single identity. The only constants in defense have been goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell and Lima, who both have played every minute of the season.
“It’s difficult, but it’s not an excuse,” said Lima. “We go out there and train as a unit, we have experience under our belts in training and most units, we have all played together. Each pairing is something we should be used to, to have a certain level, because that is what we do in training. We sometimes hurt ourselves.”
Stahre indicated that the addition of Kashia would give the team options at centerback, as well as options in formation. The Quakes’ coach signaled that a three-man back line would be an option, something he employed earlier in the season. Alternatively, he could use one of his centerbacks at left back, a position that has been the team’s Achilles heel all season. He did just that against the Revs, playing Swiss centerback Francois Affolter out wide.
Fioranelli made it clear that the signing of Kashia was not a reactionary move. He has been looking at the upcoming summer transfer, as well as future windows, for some time, and Kashia was a player that he believed would be a long-term contributor to the Quakes. Fioranelli indicated that he was not necessarily done with his summer acquisitions either, but he declined to provide more detail about who or for what positions he was targeting.