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San Jose dangerous despite rebuild as Timbers travel south

Giovanni Savarese isn’t looking past San Jose

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Following the San Jose Earthquakes’ 5-0 loss to Los Angeles FC — his team’s fourth consecutive loss — Quakes coach Matias Almeyda declared through a translator, “I’ve been respectful with the group of players that I’ve inherited, that I accepted and I have given them enough time to change.”

The Timbers face San Jose on the road today, and head coach Giovanni Savarese warned his team against underestimating the beleaguered side. “We cannot go there thinking the way everybody else thinks, this is a team that has not won any matches, that allowed a lot of goals,” he said Wednesday, speaking from the team’s training facility in Beaverton.

LAFC head coach Bob Bradley may have soundly defeated San Jose last week, but Bradley sees a team that is beginning to come around.

“Matias Almeyda has come in with a system that he is trying to build,” Bradley said last week. “That takes a bit of time. But they have good players and I think everybody who has played against them so far this year knows it’s a challenging game.”

The takeaway: San Jose’s record belies a team adjusting to a new coach, new system, new attitude, new players. New everything. Through all four games, each loss seemingly worse than the last, San Jose is slowly coming around.

It was time for a refresh. The 2018 Quakes went 4-21-9. In doing so the Quakes nearly set a single-season MLS record for most goals conceded (only to be thwarted by Orlando City). San Jose were especially woeful at Avaya Stadium, matching a league record for fewest home wins.

That’s why San Jose made the big splash to bring in the 44-year-old Almeyda, who became the fifth person to try to turn the club’s fortunes around in the last three years. While he has a history of straightening out wayward franchises, the San Jose squad Almeyda inherits may be his toughest nut to crack yet.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, that includes a coaching career where he took Jorge Vergara’s Chivas team back from relegation to accomplishments even a console-based gamer would find hard to replicate, winning the 2017 Clausura Liga MX title, two Copa MXs, the Supercopa MX, and the CONCACAF Champions League over Toronto FC.

It’s hard to believe Almeyda not being able to make San Jose a competitive team, let alone a playoff contender.

“San Jose is another tough team,” Savarese continued, obviously aware that Portland has historically struggled on the road in San Jose. The Timbers are 1-3-1 in Avaya Stadium, 2-4-4 overall on Earthquakes road trips since Portland entered MLS in 2011.

“This is a team that plays very, very different from any other team,” Savarese said, echoing Bradley’s remarks. “You have to be prepared to what they are able to do on the field.”

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Historic Implications

Standing on 144 goals, Chris Wondolowski is one goal away from matching Landon Donovan as the league’s all-time scoring leader. Yet he has not put a single shot on frame in 2019.

That might just change tonight amid Portland’s well-documented defensive lapses and Wondo’s personal history with the club: Wondolowski’s ten career goals against the Timbers are more than any other player in the regular season.

Going against a side that has had success at home against Portland and has a chance to make history, it’s no surprise that Savarese has told his team, “We need to be prepared for a battle.”