Any fan that watched last week’s game on television or was in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium could best describe Columbus Crew SC’s performance in one word, deflating. Twice the Black & Gold claimed an advantage only to have to New England Revolution equalize just moments later. The match finished as a 2-2 draw and while it wasn’t a loss, fans left the the stadium wondering “what could have been?”
A new week and a new opponent present itself, as the struggling San Jose Earthquakes come to down. The Quakes aren’t enjoying a great 2018 campaign thus far, amassing just five points in six matches. San Jose is next to last in the Western Conference, sitting just above a struggling Seattle Sounders squad.
The Earthquakes experienced a considerable roster turnover during the offseason losing players such as David Bingham, Marco Urena and Darwin Ceren. Head coach Mikael Stahre and general manager Jesse Fioranelli have a clear vision for the club and have brought in some fresh blood to turn things around. San Jose demonstrate proficiency under this new regime and it appears that time and repetition in the system will soon yield results.
San Jose at a glance:
Leading Scorer: Four players tied with 2 goals
Assists Leader: Magnus Eriksson (3)
The defensive side of the ball for the Earthquakes is a bit puzzling. San Jose appear to be proficient on paper but watching the game film tells a totally different story. The defense struggles to keep its shape often losing footraces to wingers with pace.
During the April 7 fixture against the Philadelphia Union, the Earthquakes found themselves having trouble staying in front of players such as David Accam. Defenders Nick Lima and Yefferson Quintana couldn’t keep their shape, missed assignments, and performed halfhearted challenges. One particular exchange comes to mind, as Lima went to meet a Union player on the attack, didn’t properly take away the passing channel and conceded a goal. This performance put Quakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell under duress, as he could only hold the line for so long.
Don’t let his 5-8-2 career record in Major League Soccer fool you, Tarbell is a solid goalkeeper and the perfect replacement for the departed David Bingham. The 24 year old has the potential to be a solid backstop in this league. Tarbell possesses great lateral quickness and soft hands. His reflexes are impressive as the goalkeeper can sprawl out and make an incredible save to keep his team in the game. It takes something special to beat this keeper on game day.
It’s not all bad for the Earthquakes. Stahre emphasizes quick attacking movement with crisp passing in the buildup. This allows players like Eriksson, Valeri Qazaishvili and Danny Hoesen to thrive.
The three players combined for six of the Quakes 11 goals so far this season and could strike quickly if Crew SC get caught out of position.
How Crew SC win
On paper, there isn’t any reason why Columbus doesn’t emerge victorious in this game. San Jose’s defense is lackluster, proving that a pacy, prolific winger can give them fits. Expect Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter to have his attack go right for Nick Lima and Yefferson Quintana.
Saturday’s match could be a big one for Columbus striker Gyasi Zardes. The 26 year old has the potential to find the score sheet multiple times, as the Quakes have yet to stop a dominant centeral forward this season. If the Black & Gold get a strong performance on the wings from Niko Hansen and Pedro Santos, it could spell a long evening for the Quakes.
Columbus must remain on high alert and not sleepwalk though this match. As mentioned, San Jose possesses an incredible ability to hit back on the counter attack. Eriksson and Danny Hoesen are two of the offensive catalysts for the Quakes and need to be contained for Crew SC to take all three points.