Against the New York Red Bulls, the San Jose Earthquakes fought with passion, lost two players due to serious injuries and took home one point.
San Jose Shined
Thiery Henry noted after the match, "San Jose gave us a lesson in football".
He was right. We've not seen the Earthquakes play with this amount of confidence and control. Both goals were top flight in style: intelligently generated and technically finished. Wondo's superman header was perfectly executed, resembling David Villa's goal against Zaragoza from last fall-- sad that Wondo's goal was not nominated for MLS Goal of the Week.
Plenty as been said about Rafa Marquez's horrid WWF style tackle and cowardly kick to the face on Shea Salinas. Salinas suffered a broken collarbone! If Marquez isn't suspended for more than ten games, justice is not severed. And at the same time, the match referee Ricardo Salazar should be questioned for his non-call foul in the box and not stopping the play once Salinas was on the ground. Salazar is the most inconsistent MLS referee. He too should be suspended for at least one match.
Salinas will not see the pitch for a long time. We wish him a speedy recovery. Hopefully we can chant Shea’s name throughout the match on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
Big Victor Out
Victor Bernardez, the boss of the San Jose's back-line will likely be out for 4-6 weeks. He suffered a sprained left knee ligament. Seasoned Jason Hernandez will take Bernardez' spot. We shouldn't be worried about Hernandez but look to see whom he will partner with. If Romario Corrales is healthy, most likely Justin Morrow will be paired with Hernandez. Morrow has been spectacular all season. Ike Opara may be good in the air, but his technical ability to use his feet is missing along with his limited sense of reading the game.
Possession as a Defense
"We didn't touch the ball in the second half", Henry said after the match.
San Jose upped their possession game in the second half by 57.1% total ball possession and allowed only one attempt on goal. Dawkins, Cronin, Baca and Chavez dominated the midfield.
With the absence of Bernardez, San Jose will need to keep more ball possession, requiring successful pass completions—don’t give away the ball easily and limit the opponents' chances.
Here is a breakdown of the Earthquakes’ midfield successful pass completion average per player against the Red Bulls:
Dawkins: 90% (A+)
Baca: 83% (B)
Chavez: 75% (C-)
Cronin: 73% (C-)
The midfielders should aspire to increase their successful pass completion average meeting Dawkins rate—above 90%. He is the most technically skilled player on the roaster, his stats and technical style prove it. Facing Real Salt Lake, the Earthquakes will be challenged much more because RSL plays the most possession orientated style in MLS.
Finding Wondo's Partner, Round 2
Both Lenhart and Gordon are listed as questionable for Saturday's match against RSL. Against New York, Wondo played as the target forward, doing an excellent job—better than Lenhart could ever and surprisingly better than Gordon. Wondo orchestrated the first goal; he held onto the ball, waited for the right time to flick it over to a running Khari Stephenson who assisted Baca to finish. This is a fine example of what a target forward is expected to do.
Stephenson was generous to give the assist to Baca. Aside from this fine play, Stephenson disappeared for most of the match, as I had predicted based on his last season's performances playing as a forward. He only had one shot on target and one shot on goal throughout the match. That isn't good enough for a forward. Wondo did his best to hold the ball but Stephenson couldn't strike the ball, let alone finish. You can't blame Stephenson; he is a midfielder and was played out of position by Yallop.
The only available and seasoned forward on the squad is Sercan Güvenisik. If Wondo again plays as the target forward, Güvenisik should be given the starting forward spot. The Turk as a nose for the goal and can finish. If Güvenisik was subst
After losing Bernardez, some soccer pundits have already written off the San Jose success store. But I know the boys in black and blue can overcome this early season shortfall, because the passion and technical master they unleashed against New York was earth-shattering. Let’s hope they continue their form as they battle RSL for the first place spot in the western conference table. Go Quakes!
(image courtesy of Getty Images)