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Week 33: A look ahead to San Jose Earthquakes

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The Colorado Rapids take on their final road challenge against the only team below us in the standings.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids take on their final road challenge against the only team below us in the standings. While we have triumphed against them previously, do the Rapids have a second win in them?

I’ve been saying this a lot the last few months: Thank the soccer gods for San Jose. They have had practically a permanent lease on the 23rd spot in the Supporters’ Shield standings, and as such have kept us from winning the Wooden Spoon. With a dismal 20 points over their 32 games so far, they look to have one of the all-time worst MLS seasons of any franchise.

That’s not to say that they can’t, or indeed don’t, pose a very real threat to our team. Whereas we were outscored 22-3 in the last 8 games, San Jose has kept up a relatively healthy goal differential, letting in 25 goals while scoring 14 goals. Sure, it’s still a -11 differential, but far better than our dismal -19. Plus, eyes are pointed towards their biggest threat, Chris Wondolowski, as he is only a single goal away from setting the most records for MLS career goals with 145. We’ll still never forget, Wondo...

In addition to this, SJE have also had a huge turn of events recently with their coaching staff. On September 17th, head coach Mikael Stahre and assistant coach Alex de Crook were fired. Stahre was hired as SJ’s head coach in November of last year, so he didn’t even last a full season before he was fired. In turn, they recently hired Matias Almeyda, who has spent time managing River Plate, Banfield, and Guadalajara. However, he won’t be the acting head coach until 2019. Interim coach Steve Ralston will be coaching through the end of the season, and his track record isn’t good. Since taking over from Stahre, he’s lost four straight games—two at home and two on the road—and gotten outscored 12 to 6. This makes an astonishing five head coaches for the Quakes in the past 15 months.

San Jose have typically lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. However, with Almeyda and Ralston coaching, I wouldn’t be surprised if they experiment a bit with a lineup. Their goalkeepers have been Andrew Tarbell and JT Marcinkowski. Marcinkowski has spent most of the year with Reno 1868, but has been getting the start in 3 of the last 4 games. The back line has Shea Salinas in the left back position, with Harold Cummings and Guram Kashia as the centerbacks, and Nick Lima in right back. These four shouldn’t pose a huge threat, as they have the second most goals allowed in the league.

Playing ahead of them has been a rotation of Florian Jungwirth, Luis Felipe Fernandes, and Anibal Godoy. The four offensive midfielders have also had a good amount of rotation, with one of their two DPs, Valeri Qazaishvili, a name so different that Word can’t even come up with any suggestions, likely to appear. The Georgian midfielder is a versatile presence on the field, being able to play at any one of the four offensive midfielder positions. Magnus Eriksson, Jackson Yueill, and Tommy Thompson have seen a good amount of minutes in the last several games too. Expect these four to be put in any sort of odd combination. San Jose is a fan is moving players around in similar positions.

At striker, they are likely to play Chris Wondolowski, as he looks to tie or beat the MLS record for career goals. If not, we’re likely to see Danny Hoesen, who has actually passed Wondo with the most goals for the team this season with 12 along with 4 assists. Between these two and Qazaishvili, they have a fairly potent offense. With Smith suspended due to his red card last game, I’m hoping that Ford and Sjoberg will have what it takes to keep the Quakes off the scoreboard.

With the standings now placing us definitively above the Wooden Spoon position, this game isn’t going to be about the points. Rather, I believe this is once again a chance for the team to show us something is coming down the line to show improvement in 2019. In particular, I want to see more of Cole Bassett. After making his first start in MLS last weekend, he earned himself a position in the MLS Team of the Week. Excellent work from our youngest starter ever! Along with the announcement that we recalled our remaining USL players, I’m hoping to see at least another two or three guys that we haven’t seen minutes from yet. Maybe Vines at left back, and maybe give Perez a chance? Neither of the two have actually played in an MLS game yet, and since they are both homegrown players, might as well give them a shot. I think they have what it takes to be a part of the team as we continue to build for the future.

Beating Minnesota has given the team a huge confidence boost, but one game does not a streak make. With our final road game approaching, what do you all think? Will we see more of the #Rapkids in the lineup?