While the Crew have started to find their form after a very disappointing summer, the Earthquakes have been one of Major League Soccer’s hottest teams over the last month and a half. After starting the year 0-4, San Jose has just three losses and currently sits in fourth place in the Western Conference.
To learn a little more about the Quakes, we turned to Oz Lucero of SB Nation’s Center Line Soccer.
Questions for Center Line Soccer
Massive Report: It was an 0-4 start to the MLS season for the Earthquakes and many around the League had already written San Jose off. Now this team looks in good shape for the playoffs. What happened to get things going?
Center Line Soccer: Several players have mentioned how not only was there a learning curve while trying to implement Matias Almeyda’s playing style but how they had to re-learn to trust themselves and each other on the pitch. This mentality makes a lot of sense looking back at the San Jose Earthquakes recent history. I mean no disrespect to any of the managers of the last several seasons but some weeks it looked like the coaching staff didn’t look at any film and prepare for their upcoming opponent. Almeyda is the polar opposite of that in that he is meticulous about how he plans for opponents.
Of course, the wins would not come if the players on the pitch were not capable of executing the gameplan, but it has been Almeyda that has led the turnaround and found ways to get the most out of the roster he currently has.
MR: Chris Wondolowski is a name Crew fans obviously know. But who are some other players for the Quakes that have been a part of the team’s success this year that those in Columbus may not know?
CLS: On the offensive side of the ball, it would have to be Cristian Espinoza. I believe he is the team MVP so far and has been a vital piece of the Quakes transformation. His speed down the right flank and ability to find space to get in a cross is devastated defenses this season. He has nine assists on the season and has helped Wondo get back his scoring touch, not that Wondo needed much help. His five game-winning assists are tops in the league, an honor he shares with Carlos Vela and Diego Valeri which is some pretty good company to have.
On the defensive side, I would say Crew fans are going to enjoy (that may not be the right word) watching Florian Jungwirth on the pitch. The German is in his third season for the Quakes and has played his more natural center back position for Almeyda. Like many of his teammates, he is enjoying a revitalized season. Flo is a fierce and physical defender who has no problem throwing his body around to keep the goal out of Daniel Vega’s net.
MR: San Jose has only lost three times at Avaya Stadium this year. What’s been the formula for success at home?
CLS: Impose your will on the opposition early and keep up the pressure for 90 minutes. In seven of the eight wins at Avaya, the Quakes scored before the 23rd minute of the match and when they score, they keep coming at you. I also want to believe that the fact that so many players have been with the team for several years when the results were not so good at home that they want to put on a good show for the people that supported them through the tough times.