SAN JOSE, Calif. — After such a slow start to the season, it was important for the San Jose Earthquakes to make something of their most recent road trip. They did just that, winning at Minnesota and drawing at Vancouver, to nearly double their points haul in just two games.
The second order of business for the Quakes (2-5-3, nine points) is to turn around their form at Avaya Stadium, where they have collected only one win in four tries. And with the team gaining confidence game by game, they have a golden chance to earn their second home victory tonight when they host DC United.
“We are optimistic,” Earthquakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We are pleased with the road trip, getting four points out of six was good. But to win the game against DC will be really good, those four points plus three more against DC, so yeah we are optimistic, and we need a lot of energy in this game for sure.”
San Jose worked hard on Wednesday night to escape BC Place with a 2-2 tie against the Whitecaps, and after playing just four days earlier on the artificial turf in Minnesota, the team could be excused for being fatigued. However, as players exited the training ground on Friday afternoon, no one was making preemptive excuses.
“Obviously, it was a pair of tough road games with a lot of travel and playing on turf,” forward Danny Hoesen shared, “but the results have given us energy and confidence coming off a long road trip. We 100% want to win this game, and I think that, no matter how tired your legs are, coming off two good games, you want to continue.”
Hoesen scored in each of those games, increasing his season tally to five goals, tops on the team, and three ahead of Chris Wondolowski, the team’s leading scorer for eight seasons running. The Dutch striker is beginning to find his form again, following a cold spell that came after scoring a brace in the season opener. For a Quakes side desperate not to fall too far behind in the wide open Western Conference, the return of Hoesen’s scoring prowess has everyone encouraged.
“I think that is really, really important,” Stahre said. “He’s a good player, for sure, and for a striker, it is very important to score consistently. So seeing him get five goals in 10 games so far, and three in the last four, is good for us.”
DC United (1-5-2, five points) arrive in San Jose featuring the worst record in Major League Soccer, both in terms of total points and points per game. The Red and Black have already lost five road games this season, and a cross-country trip won’t do them any favors. Still, they have had an entire week to prepare, and they’ll look to catch San Jose a little bit complacent following their taxing road trip, something the Earthquakes will try to avoid.
“We can’t let that happen,” Hoesen said. “Not at all. Every team in this league has its danger moments and good players, and I think their attacking midfielders are very good on the ball, very quick, and so there’s always danger.”
DC’s central midfield duo of Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta looked especially potent in the team’s last game, a tough 3-2 loss at Real Salt Lake, and together they have kept opposing defenders off balance. For the Quakes, a team that has been far from stable on defense, conceding 19 goals in 10 games, the prospect of dealing with DC’s dynamism has put them on high alert.
“Yeah, we have to be ready,” defender Florian Jungwirth said. “I think the most important part is the mind work since, obviously, there will be heavy legs, a bit sore, but this game, when it gets to the point that it starts to hurt, and it will at some point, we will have to go past it. I think you can see from the way the team fought in the last week, we are playing much better, Obviously, the results give you more self confidence, and I’m really convinced that we can go another 90 minutes, and win the game.”
The last time the two teams met was in September of last season, a game in which DC’s Patrick Mullins exploded for four goals to crush the Quakes by the same scoreline. The forward has scored only one goal since that outburst, and he is not a regular in head coach Ben Olsen’s lineup, but San Jose will want to exact a measure of revenge for last year’s beatdown.
The Earthquakes also know that they need to show that the results from their two game road trip were not an anomaly, and they can sustain that success in front of a friendly crowd at Avaya Stadium. Road points are always welcome, but it is those earned at home that propel teams to the postseason.
“If you look at the records during the whole year, you know you have to win a lot of home games to be part of the playoffs because most teams will struggle on the road,” Jungwirth said. “So it’s important to have a good record at home and for sure if you are playing against an East coast team, you’ve got to win it, there’s no question.”
When: May 19, 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: Avaya Stadium, San Jose, CA
Broadcast: NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+
Earthquakes injury report: Out: Yeferson Cummings (ankle), Eric Calvillo (knee), Jahmir Hyka (ankle)