Earthquake Prepare to Host In-Form Frank Lampard and New York City FC
With New York City FC making its first visit out to San Jose, the biggest storyline will of course be Avaya Stadium playing host to some of the visitor’s European superstars such as Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, and Frank Lampard (with apologies to Andoni Iraola, formerly of Athletic Bilbao, who has been just as important to the team’s renaissance), all managed by perhaps the biggest star of them all: Patrick Vieira. Earthquakes Head Coach Dominic Kinnear, however, says the awe factor has waned since he first wrote David Beckham’s name on a whiteboard in 2007: “there’s enough of them in the league that you’re not really taken aback.”
For Quakes fans, though, a potentially more exciting storyline is the chance to see new acquisition Darwin Cerén, whom Kinnear confirmed would make the 18. While Kinnear told me that Cerén was brought in to play a starting role, he’s had so little practice time that I doubt he’ll make the XI tonight.
The visitors are in a rich vein of form at the moment, having won 4 of their past 6 games, and banged in a staggering 9 goals in their last three. Vieira has guided the side, which was a hot mess last season, to the top of the table in the East, with the best away record in the entire league. In addition to the European quarter above, Tommy McNamara and first overall draft pick Jack Harrison have added still more scary dimensions to their attack. As good as they are offensively, their defense remains suspect, and will be stretched even farther through injuries to starters Jefferson Mena (Out) and Ronald Matarrita (Questionable).
Both Kinnear and left-back Jordan Stewart both cited pressure as one way to counteract NYCFC’s slick passing, which would represent a deviation from the Quakes’ typical defensive approach. They would, however, stick to their usual emphasis on width to take advantage of an NYCFC team that has set itself up within the confines of an unusually narrow pitch at Yankee stadium.
Stewart, a boyhood Chelsea fan, is relishing the chance to watch a player, in Lampard, that he’s watched so much over the years: “Frank probably doesn’t have the endurance [that he used to]…but when he gets on the ball he can find passes. He’s got a fantastic range of passing.” However, Stewart wouldn’t admit to any special feeling about going up against a club with Premier League connections and players, saying “They’re in MLS, aren’t they? We’re in the same league.”
Quakes Captain Chris Wondolowski isn’t surprised that the English legend overcame a tough start in MLS to bag a hat trick in his last outing: “He’s healthy. It’s just that simple…he’s a world-class player, it’s not like he lost it.”
Wondo’s real foil is David Villa, a man whose finishing and movement have caused comparisons to the local striker: “You see things that I try to incorporate, [but] you see it all across the game. That’s how I learned it. I think he’s very special at it, and when he does get a chance, he’s deadly: he has that killer instinct.”
Miscellaneous Practice Notes
- Kofi Sarkodie and Mark Sherrod were working out on the side of the training session, while the other long-term injuries (Marc Pelosi, Bryan Meredith) remained fully out.
- Speaking of long-term injuries, Clarence Goodson made an appearance at training, although on the side, in street shoes. Asked if Goodson had the potential to return to playing in 2017, Kinnear said “I don’t see why not. He definitely as the potential to.”
- No other injuries should keep players out of the 18. Innocent and Imperiale both trained.
- While some people assumed San Jose would go after a center-back to bolster the back line, Kinnear appeared happy with the Bernardez-Wynne partnership, and said it would be difficult to find a player who could both boost the position and come in at the right price: “A lot of people are looking for center-backs right now.” He also confirmed that Fatai Alashe would not be moved to the position in any long-term capacity.
- Jamie O’Hara was training as well, although I have my doubts that he’ll be signed after Kinnear told me this: “We did not have the Cerén move on the table when we brought O’Hara in”
- Chad Barrett was locked in during the finishing drill, standing above all his teammates in that department.
- Academy players Arda Bulut, Andrew Paoli, and Ivan Valencia all trained with the first team during practice this week.