In this week’s newsletter: Formation (mis)information, bipolar performances and more insider coverage of the San Jose Earthquakes!
Dominic Kinnear’s tactical changes this season have drawn league-wide intrigue and become the subject of much debate, though not all analyses are made equal. For example, leading MLS analyst Matt Doyle has erroneously argued that the Quakes have officially adopted a 4-3-3 formation.
Formations are often rather arbitrary semantics, a crude summary of nuanced tactical and stylistic features; one 4-4-2 can be wildly different from another in function but rather similar to a 4-5-1 or like. Yet that doesn’t mean just any interpretation will fly.
Kinnear’s league-wide reputation is deeply rooted in a textbook empty-bucket 4-4-2, but a minor adaptation was introduced under the radar this season as forward Chris Wondolowski tucked deeper into the midfield. Doyle, to his credit, was spot-on in likening it to a Thomas Müller-esque Raumdueter role.
Doyle’s observations are acute: Marco Ureña is the only fixed point in the attack ahead of the powerful central midfielder pairing Anibal Godoy and Darwin Ceren, Danny Hoesen is a “target winger”, and Jahmir Hyka and Wondolowski roam the midfield.
But he makes an overzealous leap in equating those observations to a 4-3-3 as if he’s trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The Quakes lack some key distinctive features of a 4-3-3, operating without a traditional winger, nor do they fulfill the traditional stylistic characteristics associated with the formation.
Their new changes would be more accurately conveyed in a 4-2-3-1, which emphasizes the defensive duties of Godoy and Ceren and communicates the deeper, more central roles of Hyka and Hoesen. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that Wondolowski himself, the catalyst for this debate, associates their lineup with the 4-2-3-1.
For all the excitement generated by a 3-0 demolition of the Portland Timbers last weekend, nothing brought the hopes of San Jose Earthquakes fans crashing back down to earth like Saturday’s woeful 3-0 defeat to the league’s lowest team the Colorado Rapids. The Quakes have only won seven of fifty league away games in Kinnear’s two-and-a-half-year tenure at the club, with five in 2015 alone. Despite signs of improvement in a narrow 1-0 victory at Minnesota United two weeks ago, it all fell apart as their road woes returned on Saturday.
With two strong performances against Minnesota and the Timbers, fullback Kofi Sarkodie appeared a suitable replacement for the widely criticized Shaun Francis. However, he struggled in a weak performance against Colorado, losing his marker Shkelzen Gashi in Colorado’s first goal and being outmuscled by Dominique Badji in the buildup to Colorado’s third, leading to calls for rookie Nick Lima return to the starting eleven.
A major factor in the Quakes’ destruction of the Timbers was their fluidity in the middle of the park. Colorado, however, successfully stifled the Quakes attack by clogging the middle of the pitch with a mass of numbers. The visitors were forced to attack wide, as evident in their passing map, which limited the impact of Jahmir Hyka and Danny Hoesen.
What They Said
Coach Dominic Kinnear: “The second goal, for me, right before halftime changes the score but also the mentality. As many good things as we did last week, we made a lot of mistakes this week and they took advantage of it.”
Midfielder Jahmir Hyka: “I think we wanted to play a different game. We did it a little in the beginning, and then the goal pushed us a little down.”
Saturday’s defeat to Colorado was evidence that the club’s 1-0 away victory over Minnesota United remains an exception, not the rule. The Quakes tallied only a single road victory last season and, without improvement, we predict they could suffer a similar fate this year.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Quakes enter yet another short week as they prepare to face Orlando City FC at Avaya for the first time on Wednesday night. Dominic Kinnear’s men have twice drawn with the Lions, notching a 1-1 draw at Levi’s Stadium in 2015 and salvaging a late 2-2 draw in Orlando last year. Orlando City are currently joint-second in the league with numerous games in hand over their nearest rivals, with front-men Cyle Larin and Kaka netting the lion’s share of their goals.
Kinnear’s men will then travel to FC Dallas on Saturday in a replay of their 1-1 draw at Avaya Stadium last month. Dallas’ young side are currently tied on points with Orlando for the Supporters Shield, and the Quakes would probably consider three or four points from this next week as a net gain given the strength of their opponents.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Alex is so sad about this game that he wrote Coach Dom a letter. pic.twitter.com/GOkubdY60r
— Carina Ibarra (@Aggie9) May 13, 2017
AFTERSHOCKS: FROM THE WEEK’S NEWS
MLSSoccer.com: Right Hand Man
SJEarthquakes.com: The legend of Hykachu has arrived in San Jose
Quakes After 90: The Attack Awakens
Quakes Axis: Behind the scenes of a commanding win vs. Portland
TRUCKEE TALK: RENO 1868 UPDATE
Reno 1868 enjoyed a well-deserved week of rest after sealing their first-ever win against the Phoenix Rising FC last weekend. They used the opportunity to announce the signing of twenty-one-year-old midfielder Luis Fernandes, formerly of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and first-divisor Brazilian side Cruzeiro. Reno will return to action against the Seattle OSA Football Club in their first ever Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match on Wednesday night and will also face the Seattle Sounders 2 on Saturday in USL action.
The Quakes academy faced Juventus Soccer Club of Redwood City across all age groups on Saturday, sealing three victories and three draws, including a two-goal comeback from the U-12 Blues. There were more mixed results for the younger age brackets against the EBU Bay Oaks Academy on Sunday.
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