As the San Jose Earthquakes prepare to face FC Dallas at Avaya Stadium, here are three things we’ll be watching for in tonight’s match:
Quakes forward Marco Ureña, speaking earlier in the week, mused that the club’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders was his best performance in a Quakes shirt since joining in the offseason. If the Quakes are to take more points from the reigning Supporters’ Shield champions, FC Dallas, it will take an equally strong performance from front to back.
The Quakes drew twice and lost once in three meetings with Dallas last season and Oscar Pareja’s young squad have only improved since then. Dallas have allowed just two goals in four games so far this season and currently sit second place in Major League Soccer with two games in hand.
Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear, however, is confident the Quakes will be able to defend their undefeated streak at home and thinks the blossoming partnership between Ureña and Chris Wondolowski up top will be a key to their success.
“If their movement is similar to what it’s been so far, they’ll give [Dallas] problems,” Kinnear said. “Marco had a really good game for us [against Seatte], he was mobile and wasn’t just staying on the ball and taking his time. [They had] good determination and, obviously, Chris is always energetic and always looking to get into the box. They form a pretty good partnership on both sides of the ball, they’re a good first line of defense for us. They’ve done some really positive things, and if they can continue to do that they’ll give the defense some problems.”
The Quakes will be aided by the return of center-back Victor Bernardez from suspension, although the impressive performance of Fatai Alashe, who dropped back from the midfield in Bernardez’s absence against Seattle, will give the veteran defender a run for his starting position.
Said Kinnear: “[Fatai] has looked comfortable [at center-back]. It shows his versatility. It’s nice for him to know he probably has a career in two positions if he likes.”
Alashe’s transition to center-back also opens up space for Darwin Ceren to start into the middle, and the presence of the El Salvador international has significantly improved the team’s fluidity in the midfield.
“I thought [Darwin] had a pretty good game,” said Kinnear. “He’s in there to be a physical presence and to keep the ball moving for us. He closes the space down and picks the right passes. Sometimes a pass from a central-midfielder can be a pressure reliever.”
Such was the case against the Sounders last Saturday when Ceren’s diagonal switch pass started the attack from which Wondolowski netted their late equalizer.
The Quakes are seeking to ride the momentum of that comeback win to climb even higher up the Western Conference table. Captain Wondolowski told Quakes Talk: “I can’t say we’re satisfied. We’ve had a lot of learning lessons…it was especially tough on the road but we want to make it a fortress at home and we have the right mentality going into the game tomorrow.”
Tactically, Wondolowski says the Quakes are focusing on their defensive transition.
“Dallas does a great job transitioning to their offense and have so many dangerous guys, [Michael] Barrios, and [Maximiliano] Urruti, and Kellyn Acosta, who I think is one of the better guys. But obviously they’re very organized defensively, so I think we’re going to have to keep creating our chances and finishing them off when we get some.”
Kinnear added: “[We want] a little more patience in the attack sometimes, stringing more passes together that lead to good attacks. Obviously, it changes from week to week depending on what team we’re playing against, but that’s something we’re working on from our point of view. [We don’t want to] get stuck attacking one area, we want to step on the ball and try to be a bit more patient.”
Midfielder Simon Dawkins is unlikely to start due to a knock to the knee, but the Quakes have a plethora of options to fill his role, including Tommy Thompson, Shea Salinas, and Cordell Cato, who impressed in his season debut against Seattle last weekend.
Heading into an extended road trip, the pressure is mounting for the Quakes to put points on the board.
“We know that Dallas is one of the best teams in the league, maybe the best team,” Quakes defender Florian Jungwirth told Quakes Talk. “They’ve shown it’s possible to play the same style at home and on the road, what we want to do, so it will be a very tough and intense game tomorrow. We’re still undefeated [at home] and tomorrow, after ninety minutes, I hope it’s still the same.”
KICKOFF: 8 p.m. Friday. TV: UniMas. Online: Unimas Facebook. RADIO: KTCT 1050.
PHOTO: ISI PHOTOS