Toronto FC @ San Jose Earthquakes PreviewBy: Sairax | April 7th, 2011
San Jose Earthquakes
Conference: West Position: 5th
W-L-D: 1-1-1 (0 points, +1 goal differential)
Home Form: 0-1-1 (-1 goal differential)
Recent Form: DWL
Last Meeting: Toronto FC 2 – San Jose Earthquakes 3 (September 25, 2010)
Toronto FC are back on the road again. We’re flying to sunny California to meet up with San Jose Earthquakes, one of the clubs that has been in MLS since the league’s inception in 1996 (then known as “San Jose Clash”). Currently, TFC have taken 4 points from 3 games (not too shabby) and sit 6th in the Eastern Conference. Or, if you will, joint-third on points! San Jose have garnered the same number of points, but they have found more success on the road than at home so far.
San Jose has seen many changes over the years, from their roots in the NASL to the franchise move to Houston (the team in Houston ended up as an expansion team in 2006 and San Jose’s original team records did not carry over). San Jose were on hiatus during the 2006 and 2007 seasons because of the franchise move, but returned to MLS in 2008 under their former manager, legendary Canadian Frank Yallop. Since the opening MLS season, San Jose has won 2 MLS Cups, both under Frank Yallop, in 2001 and 2003. In 2005 they won the Supporter Shield in 2005 under coach Dominic Kinnear. Last season, despite just barely making the playoffs, they managed to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals (yes, Eastern. Don’t ask) where they lost to eventual MLS Cup winners Colorado Rapids.
This season has seen San Jose make an uneven start, but there are still hopes that the strong finish to the end of their 2010 campaign will carry over into this season. On the other hand, some have cautioned that they could end up back on the low end of the table like they were before their good run to the playoffs. They certainly are a team that could build on any momentum and with a recent away win at FC Dallas and a 2-2 tie last weekend against Seattle, San Jose will be eager to grab their first home win of the season against a Toronto team that is still trying to find its feet. The last time the Reds played at Buck Shaw Stadium, we came away with 3 points after winning 3-1. They greatly outnumbered us in shots, but Stefan Frei came up big, as usual, with several key saves. DeRo struck twice and grabbed his second goal when he was in clear on an empty net. Chad Barrett also scored for TFC while Ramiro Corrales claimed the lone San Jose goal of the night. Our record isn’t bad away to San Jose; in the three games we’ve played there we’ve won twice and drawn once. If we can keep our good fortunes there going, it would be great, but I think it will be a tougher task this year, particularly since our side has yet to achieve real consistency within their play, not to mention we just lost DeRo who was our best and most influential player.
The Earthquakes are still being headed up by coach Frank Yallop. He is well-known and respected within the Canadian soccer community and has 52 caps for the Canadian National Team. He also coached the Men’s National Team from 2004-2006 after leaving his first stint at San Jose. He was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005. Dwayne De Rosario, our former captain who has now joined New York Red Bulls, played under Yallop for the national team and during the Earthquakes successful cup-winning seasons. Alan Gordon, Ty Harden, and Nathan Sturgis all played under Yallop when he coached LA Galaxy from 2006-2007. You can see, there is a lot of history there and several players that have crossed paths. Most recently, TFC did business with the Earthquakes when they traded Sam Cronin for allocation money in June 2010. I still can’t believe we made that trade. Cronin was well-liked by many people and thought to be a great pickup in the 2009 MLS Superdraft. The only reason he was let go is because he wasn’t a “Preki-type” player. He’s done well ever since he joined San Jose. I can see him being a great player in this league for years to come and it really annoys me that we just let him go for no good reason. He’ll be one to keep an eye on this weekend. I’m sure he’d love to score against us!
I can’t talk about the Earthquakes without mentioning Chris Wondolowski. He had always been one of those players that played second fiddle on his teams and struggled with injury at times. It was in 2010 when he really hit top form and enjoyed a fantastic season with the Earthquakes. He scored 18 goals during the 2010 season, including a hattrick at BMO, and won the MLS Golden Boot. His goals were a major reason why San Jose made it to the playoffs last season. He’s continued scoring this season by scoring twice against FC Dallas. His last 12 goals for the club, stretching back to last season, set a new record as being the only goals scored for San Jose. In other words, only Wondolowski was on target for San Jose as he scored their last 12 goals in MLS. That came to an end last weekend when Khari Stephenson and Simon Dawkins netted against Seattle to become the Earthquakes first scorers in months not named Wondolowski. Wondo is still going to be their biggest threat so our defense needs to stay tight on him and our midfield needs to cut off his supply.
In defense, the Earthquakes look to have a solid enough backline, but it was exposed against Seattle last weekend. San Jose captain and veteran defender Ramiro Corrales will likely start in the centre of defense. They seem to play three centrebacks so we could see Jason Hernandez or Brandon McDonald joining Corrales along with Ike Opara, the talented, young 22 year old defender. In the middle of the park will be Cronin with another big player in Bobby Convey. He has recently reminded people of his talents that had been subdued in recent years by enjoying a great season with San Jose in 2010 and racking up 10 assists in the league. He can be a real terror on the flank, which is bad news for us because we seem to really be exposed defensively out wide. If it’s Gargan who starts on Saturday, be afraid. Be very afraid.
Moving on to the Reds, there have been so many changes to the TFC roster, it’s been hard to keep up at times. DeRo is officially out and Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman, and Dicoy Williams are in. With all of the new additions, it is difficult for me to guess the starting eleven, but here goes:
Frei Williams-Cann-Attakora-Yourassowsky Peterson-Stevanovic-Tchani Martina-Gordon-Maicon Bench: Kocic, Harden, Gargan, Cordon, deGuzman, Borman, Plata
Bench: Kocic, Harden, Gargan, Cordon, deGuzman, Borman, Plata
I believe Yourassowsky is back from suspension and will be available. He’s our best option at leftback and did a really good job with overlapping runs, so I think he’s still a starter. If Nana’s fit and healthy I think he will start next to Cann. They are still adjusting to the new style of play with the high line and playing from the back, but they are still the best options we have. The more they play together the better because they have a good understanding of each other from last season and can slowly improve with time. I’ve put Williams at rightback because Gargan seems like he’s been moved to the bench after some less than stellar performances in our opening games. Frei, of course, starts in goal.
As for our attack, I’m interested to see what Winter puts out. He threw Tchani into the mix right away against Chivas USA so I can definitely see him starting on Saturday. I can’t see deGuzman starting the game, what with all the travel and him only just coming back from injury. I think most of us were surprised to see him on the bench, let alone play 45 minutes last week. If we see him, I’m guessing it will be in the second half. Stevanovic, Martina, and our new captain Maicon are all shoo-ins to start. Peterson has been holding his own and should find himself in the midfield again. Gordon grabbed his first goal last week and provides us with a big, strong physical presence that gives us a different option up top. It looks pretty close to our strongest eleven. We really need to take our chances when we get them. In other words, we might not get a lot of chances, so opportunities like the one Maicon royally screwed up last week cannot be missed. Our defense is still our weakest area, but our attacking players need to get back and help out when they can. With DeRo leaving, we no longer have that one guy to turn to when the chips are down. Any success we have on the pitch will truly be a team effort. The faster our guys can start clicking and improving their understanding of each other, the better our performances will get. I think this will be a tough game. San Jose will score, I’m pretty sure of that, though chances of us scoring on the road are better today than they have been in previous seasons. Our record on the road in MLS is quite poor, but what we have on our side is our record against San Jose in their stadium and the fact that they haven’t been great at home thus far. Hopefully, we can get a decent result from this match, or at the very least, see some improvement in our general play. Either would be satisfying for me.
Toronto FC @ San Jose Earthquakes will be broadcast on GolTV Canada Live at 10:30pm ET
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