It is kind of crazy to think that FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes haven’t seen one another on the soccer pitch in over a year and a half. The last time was a June 2019 trip to San Jose that saw the game end in a 2-2 draw.
Since it has been a while, I thought it would be worth bringing in someone who covers the Quakes on a regular basis to help preview tomorrow’s game a bit with our old Three Questions series. Today, we have Alicia Rodriguez from Center Line Soccer to help give us a preview of how the Quakes are doing and what we might expect.
BDS: San Jose struggled pretty heavily in the back at times in 2020, what has changed for 2021 that will keep the team from giving up five or six goals in a game?
CLS: That’s a great question! I don’t know. But seriously, what’s strange is that San Jose mostly kept their personnel the same in the good times and bad last year. They just...tried harder? That’s not quite it, they did make a few tactical tweaks to break the trademark man-marking at times and said they redoubled their efforts to time their pressing triggers right, and it worked. Honestly, the turnaround to make the playoffs last season, off an eight-game losing streak, was one of the most remarkable in-season transformations I’ve ever seen in MLS.
But to get back to your question, the Quakes were looking to upgrade their defense in the offseason and so far they’ve only brought in one player, full back Luciano Abecasis, who looked fine in the season opener. The club knows they need to upgrade at center back, too, and whispers are that they could be lining things up to make a signing in that department in the summer transfer window. If that player can slot in quickly and help solidify the defense, then that should help their goals conceded number, but we’ll see what happens.
BDS: What kind of pressure is on Matias Almeyda in his third season with the Quakes? Did he do enough to his roster to improve on what was there in 2020?
CLS: He’s under no pressure at all, to be honest. Almeyda is like Marcelo Bielsa, who he models his coaching style on. Both men take on challenging projects that most managers would shy away from. Both managers thrive on making their rosters much better than the sum of their parts. Almeyda remains extremely in demand all over Latin America — he’s connected to one job or another basically every month, and at some point, he’ll take one of those offers. Whether it happens at the end of his contract or before is one of the questions hanging over the club.
In fact, the dynamic is reversed: The pressure is on the club to make the most of Almeyda’s time here. They know he’s elevated the standard with one of the worst rosters in MLS, and almost no other coach could get the same returns out of this squad that he’s done. 2021 is a big year for the team, but mostly because there’s at least some fear this could be the Argentine’s last season here, and they need to kind of go for broke if that’s the case.
BDS: Who is the one player FC Dallas fans need to keep an eye on during Saturday’s game?
CLS: I think there will be a couple of changes in the lineup, but the player who may be the bellwether is midfielder Eric Remedi. He was acquired in a trade from Atlanta United and he’s had an up and down tenure in MLS so far, but he’s expected to start against Dallas with Judson missing the preseason to get his Green Card. If Remedi can dominate, then that means San Jose’s probably having a good day, and if he’s not, then they are probably struggling. The other one is another newcomer, Chofís Lopez, who’s an attacker. He wasn’t great in his debut, but Almeyda did point out he hadn’t played a game in a very long time so he may need some time to find his best again.