After a hot start to the season, the San Jose Earthquakes have only picked up five points in their last five games. Three of the five matches have come against opponents lower than them in the standings. Of course, it doesn’t help that they’ve been without five of their normal starting eleven for the last month. With a return of four out of the five players taken away by Copa America, the Earthquakes will look to get back on track, in a difficult road match against Orlando City SC.
Richter Report: Earthquakes’ Matchday 15
Keys To Victory
Win The Set Piece Battle
A major issue for the Earthquakes this season has been controlling where they foul. They tend to give up a lot of set piece opportunities, which we be okay if they weren’t considered dangerous situations. In their last two games, both of them road losses against Portland Timbers, they surrendered two of the three goals off set piece situations. They won’t get any respite when it comes to set piece specialists this week. Orlando will boast Kaka and Brek Shea as key set piece danger man, with plenty of targets for them in the box. San Jose must restrict their opportunities on set pieces as much as possible.
On the contrary, the boys in blue need to actually take advantage of their own set piece opportunities. They have had numerous set pieces in the last 5 games with none resulting in a goal, and last game they didn’t even register a shot on target. Despite the amount of quality targets, the service in to them has been sub-par. Set pieces can easily be the deciding factor in this match, especially when the two teams are so evenly matched. The Earthquakes must limit Orlando’s set pieces, and take advantage of their own if they want to pull out a win.
SHOOT THE BALL AT THE TARGET
It’s incredible how simple that actually sounds, but in their last four games in all competition, they’ve put a whopping total of eight shots on target. An average of two shots on target a game will not result in enough goals to win you matches. Simply enough, they need to put the ball on the frame. It’s pathetic that this even has to be brought up for a professional team. While they have enjoyed possession elsewhere, their lack of ability to put together anything in the final third is absurd. If their desire is to be a playoff team, they will not make it at this rate. It is a simple concept: shoot the ball at the goal more often, and you are more likely to score a goal. It shouldn’t be this big of an issue, but it is, for the third season in a row.
Contain Cyle Larin
Cyle Larin is to Orlando City, what Chris Wondolowski is to the Earthquakes. Their offense mainly runs through him. Yes, Orlando has many fantastic players around him. However, none of them are capable of changing a game quite like him, with the exception of Kaka. Kevin Molino and Kaka are quite dangerous, but they’re pretty much the average “dangerous player” in MLS. Larin is physical, he has pace, and the “Wondo” type mental aspect that helps him find room anywhere in the box. He’s an extremely dangerous player, and San Jose would be wise to double up on him.
The Starting XI
The return of four key players from the Copa America will greatly boost a ‘Quakes squad that has not scored a goal in their last three games. Shea Salinas has been absolutely horrendous in those three games, so expect Alberto Quintero to go straight into the squad. This team should retain their mentality, as they have looked pretty decent in matches lately, with an exception to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game this week. Their problems don’t come from a standpoint of a bad philosophy, they didn’t have the right players to accomplish something in that mentality. Since they went with an extremely weak squad for the U.S. Open Cup, I think Dominic Kinnear will roll out a much stronger team for this match.
2-1 Earthquakes. The return of key players from Copa America like Quintero, Godoy, Dawkins will definitely boost the squad, especially when it comes to creative attacking players. The possibility of a Clarence Goodson return is definitely viable as well, since he made the bench for the U.S. Open Cup match. If two of these guys return, it will completely change the dynamic of this squad. At full strength, this ‘Quakes squad should be able to beat Orlando any time. Emotions will be extremely high for the match, especially in for Orlando in the wake of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. Orlando will be flying, and the Earthquakes will have to match that.
Main Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images