The San Jose Earthquakes venture to take on Columbus Crew SC after a week-long stay on the East coast following a rut of no wins since the first week of the season. Crew SC has played more games, eight in total, to San Jose’s six but have just one point in the last four matches.
With both teams in a slump, this match presents an interesting dynamic. Will the managers choose to keep things the same, in hopes that a few goals will get their attackers roaring and a win will gain some confidence? A clean sheet could do well for the confidence of the goalkeepers. Or will they look to shake things up and use this match as an experiment?
Quakes manager Mikael Stahre stated earlier this week he plans to take it to Columbus and not sit back in this tough road game.
“We are working hard in training this week and we are on the right track,” he said. “Hopefully we can win this game against Columbus. It will be a hard one for sure, but we will sure be trying.”
We know Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter is not one to tinker often tactically, at least not to the naked eye, and maintains lineups until players have a stretch of lowered form. We’ve seen Josh Williams and Niko Hansen come into the starting XI in place of the youngsters Lalas Abubakar and Cristian Martinez.
But some worrying statistics may cause more changes. Williams has three starts, but the team has no wins and four goals conceded in that time. Hansen has not offered any more than Martinez — if anything, a little less.
At heart, I hope to see a total change. A change away from the flank-heavy possession approach to something a little more dynamic. When Orlando City SC played San Jose last week, they attacked the Quakes in the heart and grabbed three goals. Their defense lacks any certain organization and Florian Jungwirth and Anibal Godoy close out too much on overloads and the middle channel opens wide up.
I see a change to a 3-4-2-1 from Crew SC, given the Earthquakes characteristics:
- The 4-2-4 of the Quakes offers back-door access on the flanks
- The synchronous play of Junwirth and Godoy in the center could be potentially dismantled by a dynamic attacking midfield.
- The striker duo of Chris Wondolowski and Danny Hoesen would be well-matched by three center backs (and Wil Trapp to cover Wondolowski when he drops into midfield).
- Their attack is focused around slinging crosses. The added height in the back would be a preventative measure.
The struggles that Crew SC has faced recently favor this change as well:
- Martinez nor Hansen have really had much of an impact on matches this season through eight games. It appears neither one may break out as the impact player Berhalter wants this season (though I have hope for the future).
- With the Williams and Abubakar change, the backline still has had shaky moments, a third center back could shore this up.
- Left back Milton Valenzuela has been productive on the flanks, this change would free him up to do more damage as a true wingback. And the same goes for Harrison Afful on the right flank.
- Federico Higuain and Pedro Santos will have more space to work their magic in the middle of the field.
Of course, calling for such a huge switch is a gamble because, as mentioned, Berhalter likes to keep things steady. But I see a real purpose for this change and a great opportunity to test it out against this team.
Predicted Lineup for Crew SC
Predicted Lineup for San Jose
On the other side of the pitch, I do not think we should see as radical of a change.
Andrew Tarbell will start between the sticks.
Shea Salinas, Harold Cummings, Yefferson Quintana, and Nick Lima will shore up the back line.
Jungwirth and Godoy in the center of midfield, with Magnus Eriksson and Valeri Qazaishvili in the wide attacking roles.
Wondolowski and Hoesen will start the match up top.
I see the Earthquakes making two changes from their loss against Orlando, as Cummings becomes available once again and Qazaishvili should start in place of Jahmir Hyka, who truly offered nothing more than the Georgian has in his first start of the season.
The Quakes will need to put a stop to Higuain’s playmaking ability and Trapp’s distribution to pull this one out. Most teams know this as the way to put a stop to the Crew SC attack. Isolate Zardes and he can’t do much. Force the backline to handle distribution and you may have several gifts coming your way.
Columbus needs to be weary about this. The team needs to start making steps to prevent this type of isolation and enable some creative play to be dispersed throughout different areas of the pitch.
If nothing else, this will be an inspired match and I would expect to see a few goals, as both teams are eager and frustrated. Check out our match thread for updates nearer and during the match, as I would expect both managers to make some impactful changes as the match progresses. It may even be a match where we see some players like Ricardo Clark, Mohammed Abu and Hector Jimenez add extra inspiration to the team.