The San Jose Earthquakes are a team in transition. So far this season, the Earthquakes have amassed 6 points good enough to put them in playoff position, early this season.
The 6 points match the 6 goals they have scored so far in MLS [tied for best in MLS] through week 4, but also matches the 6 they have given up this season [3rd worst in MLS] as well. (Squawka.com)
Though, they have given up so many goals, their defense across the board has improved somewhat. They’ve intercepted 71 passes this year so far (currently 9th in MLS). This is an area of improvement as they were nearly last in MLS last year in the same category. (Squawka.com)
One might argue that San Jose should have high marks on defense this year, they’re 2nd to last in possession in MLS. (squawka.com) The Earthquake have spent most of their games on defense than on offense, thus they would have more opportunities to gain interceptions.
The difference between this year and last year in that respect, is that they simply just look like a better team. Even though they have scored 3 goals from open play, some of their chances this year from set pieces have looked downright dangerous. (squawka.com)
Between Shea Salinas and Matias Perez Garcia, the Earthquake possess an arsenal of free kick artists throughout each game they play. Every set piece is a legit chance to score for them, and if J.J. Koval begins to start hitting the back of the net with his chances, teams will have to shift some focus to him instead of the generally heavily marked Chris Wondolowski, Victor Bernardez, and Clarence Goodson (Don’t laugh he has two assists from set pieces and drew a penalty from one).
Even though the bulk of their goals came from open play, they only really occurred in one match. All of their open play goals this year were against Seattle and the continued Brad Evan experiment at centerback. Otherwise they have struggled to score in open play, but only completing 72% of your passes (last in MLS) as a team will do that.
Having said that, they are still very much in the playoff race early in the season and a win against Real Salt Lake (RSL) today in San Jose, could put them into contention for the Supporters Shield.
That will not be completely easy, as RSL have completed nearly 80% of their passing and retain possession 52% of the games they have played so far. (squawka.com)
Expect San Jose, to continue to bunker in on defense and work to get into transition in hopes of getting set pieces in front of their home crowd.
RSL have their own issues to work out this week. RSL comes into San Jose, having gone scoreless in their last 4 away games (mlssoccer.com). They are 18th in the MLS in created chances, and gave up quite a bit of set piece opportunities when they began the season against Portland.
RSL will be just as interested in creating offensive set pieces as San Jose have, being that they have scored more than half of their goals by way of set piece (squawka.com).
This is a very winnable game for the Earthquake at Avaya Stadium. If the Earthquakes can let their defense turn into offense, whether it be off the educated foot of Garcia or Salinas from set pieces or open field combinations between Wondolowski and Innocent Emerghara, they can set up an interesting match next week when Supporter Shield leading Vancouver Whitecaps come to San Jose.