Here's an opponent preview from reader Martin Tomszak to tide you over until kick-off tomorrow at 6pm. The Earthquakes are opening their branding spankin' new digs at Avaya Stadium so the Fire will have yet another debut party to contend with in order to avoid to the club's first ever 0-3 start to a season.
What Are They About? San Jose Earthquakes Preview
SJ Form Guide: L-W
Previous Match: 3-2 win over Seattle Sounders.
Formation: 4-2-3-1 David Bingham; Shaun Francis, Paulo Renato, Victor Bernardez, Marvell Wynne; JJ Koval, Fatai Alashe; Innocent Emeghara, Matias Perez Garcia, Sanna Nyassi; Chris Wondolowski
Homecoming: The Quakes are finally opening up their own soccer specific stadium and are doing so under the guidance of hometown hero Dominic Kinnear. In just two matches Kinnear has his team playing with more belief and confidence than they showed in the whole of last season. If there’s any coach that can get his players to fight for him and believe in his system it’s Kinnear. The Fire will need to be as weary of the man on the sidelines as they are of the men on the pitch.
Delivery: Marvel Wynne can put dangerous crosses in the box from both open play and set pieces as was evident with his pinpoint cross to Wondolowski for San Jose’s first goal against Seattle.
Mid-field Trio: The Fire will be very familiar with the pace that Sanna Nyassi offers on the right flank. Although his ball control and decision making abilities are not top notch, he was a constant thorn in the side of the Sounders. This was mirrored on the other side by San Jose’s very own Nigerian DP signing Emeghara who showed exactly why he was worth signing with his solo run up the flank and cool finish for San Jose’s third goal against Seattle. The last member of the midfield, Matias Perez Garcia, was constantly providing quality service to Wondolowski and the two wingers. When the passing lanes weren’t open, he had no problem taking defenders on one on one, showing that he has a bit of pace to him. He’ll be looking to do the same against the Fire.
Work rate: Kinnear accepts nothing less than 100% from his players at all times and this was evident as the fullbacks, wingers, and even Wondolowski tracked back to help defend against Seattle. San Jose’s ability to quickly close down any possession that their opponents had was clear in both matches they have played this season. Even after going down to ten men San Jose stayed organized and prevented any open field counter attacks from Seattle.
Poacher: Against Seattle Chris Wondolowski showed that he hasn’t changed a bit in the last few seasons. He managed to pull off the back of Seattle’s defenders to put away Wynne’s cross for his first goal and then he pounced on Brad Evans’ poor back pass to smash home his second goal of the night. The Fire cannot afford to give Wondo as many chances as they gave Octavio Rivero last week or they will be punished.
Bingham’s decision making and poor handling: The blame for both of the goals that San Jose has conceded this season lies heavily with their keeper. Blas Perez’s stoppage time winner for FC Dallas and Dempsey’s early goal for Seattle both came as a direct result of Bingham punching the ball into dangerous areas only for it to be sent right back into the net. Bingham spent most of last season on loan with spells at San Antonio in the NASL and Strommen in Norway’s second division, so he’ll need time to adjust to MLS. If the Fire are to get anything from this match they will need to test Bingham early and often.
Communication between a new center back pairing: With both first choice starters out, Bernardez suspended and Renato with a hamstring injury, Dom Kinnear will have to call on Ty Harden and Clarence Goodson to man the back line. When you add in Bingham’s often rash decisions to quickly come off of his line, there could be some miscommunication at the back for San Jose. It also must be mentioned that aside from Shaun Francis at left back, none of the back four are known for their speed. If the Fire have both Igboananike and Accam healthy and ready to go, they should look to exploit this aspect of San Jose’s team.
The last time the Fire traveled to San Jose they came home with a 5-1 loss, and the last time Chicago beat a Western Conference opponent on the road was way back on October 12, 2013. It seems like both statistics and momentum are against the Fire. Opening new stadiums has never been friendly for Chicago either.