With the International Champions Cup and the never ending drama with Neymar, its easy to forget about the MLS regular season during the summer.
However; this week in MLS was truly unforgettable off the field. Old Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was hired by the LA Galaxy after firing Curt Onalfo earlier in the week. His first game for the Galaxy came against…. the Sounders, talk about irony. Meanwhile on the other side of LA, LAFC hired former US national team head coach Bob Bradley as their first ever head coach as the front office continues building a squad in the coming months that can compete in the upcoming MLS season. In transfer news, former Orlando City striker and new US national team player Dom Dwyer returned to his former club after OCSC paid 1.6 million for the player, one of the largest trades in MLS history. This all happened over the course of a week.
Given that I was in San Jose for the weekend, the perfect opportunity came up to cover a San Jose Earthquakes game.
The Quakes currently sit in 7th in the table just outside the final playoff position in the Western conference with 26 points from 21 games. This season has been an interesting one so far for the bay area team, which has seen many off the field changes this season starting with their GM, John Doyle who was fired in January.
Jesse Fioranelli was then hired to replace him after leaving AS Roma to be the new sporting director. Under his reign so far, he fired long time head coach Dominic Kinnear in June and replaced him permanently with Chris Leitch, the club’s former technical director. This firing came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Quakes are not necessarily struggling this season. Since the hire of Leitch, the club has brought in “Albanian Messi” Jahmir Hyka and Georgian attacking midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili along with the revitalization of the young Tommy Thompson whose hype train looks to be back on track. The Earthquakes have some of the best attacking midfield talent in the league, good enough to make the playoffs.
Meanwhile in Commerce City, the Rapids are struggling. Despite having US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard, the team sits 10th in the West with only twenty points from nineteen games. Last season’s western conference champions have struggled this season after the departures of Sam Cronin and Marc Burch who have been crucial to Colorado’s defensive solidity. The club sold the two to expansion club Minnesota United. It was reported that Pablo Mastroeni and the front office did this move to make room to improve the club’s lackluster offense led by Dominic Badji who only has six goals total.
The Quakes were favorites to win this match.
Given that Colorado is one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and their strongest strategy is to win in binaries (like 1-0, 2-0, 2-1). I wasn’t expecting many goals.
Few chances were created by both sides with San Jose getting the lions share of dangerous possession. The most notable chance of the first half came form Doyle whose header fell safely into David Bingham’s hands. Colorado defended compactly the whole match, blocking any shot from the Quakes outside the 18-yard box.
San Jose’s intricate passing and lateral movement were on point with the Quakes probing multiple times just around Colorado’s box but couldn’t put together the final cross or finish the final ball to give the Quakes the lead.
The Quakes in the end couldn’t find a way to score from open play but they did score the lone goal in the match from a corner kick. In the 59th minute, Darwin Cerén’s corner ball reached rookie defender Nick Lima who trapped the ball from the air and blasted it to the top left corner from just outside the 18 yard box, out of reach for Rapids second string goalkeeper Zach McMath. This proved to be the pivotal moment of the match.
The confidence around the Quakes team grew as the game came to a close. Costa Rican attacker Marcos Ureña missed an open net in the 70th minute and Chris Wondolowski’s shooting boots were not on form tonight, missing multiple chances inside the box. San Jose could have easily won by two or three but kept the game close.
Youngsters Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima were impress tonight, showing composure throughout in the wings and central midfield. The Earthquakes have a team that is capable of beating anyone in MLS on their day (they aren’t the only ones either). Colorado, looks very much like the team from last year, the only difference is they are losing 1-0 this season instead of winning 1-0.
Next up for both clubs are match-ups at home. San Jose takes Columbus, while the Rapids take on the Whitecaps.