The Portland Timbers are on the road again and are set to take on the San Jose Earthquakes this Sunday down in chilly California. With the Timbers in need of some road points to get things back on track and the Earthquakes in need of points in general, this game looks like the typical hard-fought contest between the two sides.
In preparation for the match we got a hold of our sister site, Centerline Soccer, and talked to the always-helpful Nerdy Gales about the state of the 'Quakes.
The 'Quakes have been in a bit of a downward spiral since losing to the Timbers four games ago. What is going on in San Jose and are the Earthquakes looking at this rematch as a chance to turn things around?
Indeed. July has not been kind to the Earthquakes - completely winless since the 3-1 California Clasico victory over LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium in June. - so a turnaround would be warmly welcomed.
The normally stellar back line has proven shaky of late, allowing eight goals in the last two games. The soccer IQ of Bernardez, Goodson, Wynne and Stewart is a pleasure to watch (up until recently at least). The relatively inexperienced goalkeeper David Bingham has made a couple of costly errors this past month, but he should continue to learn from his back line mentors.
Well -- such are the silver-lined thought processes of the cloud-enabled fans as they prop up the longest outdoor bar in North America discussing their team's winless streaks.
With the Earthquakes near the bottom of the league in shots taken and dead last for shots on goal, is the attack the issue for the Earthquakes? Is it really just Chris Wondolowski scoring, or is there some other attacking threat that the Quakes can look to this year?
Ugh. Please don't make me look at the stats. The glib answer is yes, it really is just Chris Wondolowski scoring. Even with his absence in July for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the fact that Dominic Kinnear is (mysteriously) playing him in midfield, Wondo is the leading scorer with 9 of the team's 22 goals.
Next on that list (with three goals) is Quincy Amarikwa, who arrived in San Jose since the Quakes last met the Timbers -- he's settled in nicely and tallied three goals in his last two MLS games. He's quite the character, and an athletic, hard-working player that might help ameliorate those lousy team stats you mention.
Adam Jahn does seem to have lost the plot in 2015. It's a conundrum after a promising 2014, but his pillow feet have lost their magic touch, and he's getting much less playing time than the start of this season. Mark Sherrod has been filling in with Wondo's absence, and finds himself with more and more chances - hopefully he will score hopefully sooner rather than later.
How badly has the absence of Innocent Emeghara hurt the Quakes, particularly after his promising showings early in the season?
Yes, he's been missed -- we reported back on May 7 that Innocent would be out of action for 4-6 months with a torn meniscus. Even a September return is optimistic, and if the Quakes don't make the playoffs, then it's unlikely we'll see him again in 2015 - so yes, Don Henley fans, it's probably the end of the Innocent. He's an exciting player to watch, and it's disappointing that he's not around to play alongside Mathias Perez Garcia.
Meanwhile, MPG is definitely finding his feet in MLS - he's gradually learned what his teammates can (or cannot) do on the pitch, and is reading the MLS game much better. With the absence of Innocent, he's become the target man for opposing defenses, and takes a lot of tackles that result in spectacular tumbles; Emeghara would have deflected a lot of that attention. Keeping MPG healthy through the 2015 is, in my opinion, the key to keeping the Quakes hopes alive in the race for a playoff spot.