As preseason develops, Mikael Stahre’s tactical identity with the Quakes takes form
PHOTO: SJEarthquakes/ISI Photos
SAN JOSE, Calif. — From Dominic Kinnear’s conventional 4-4-2, to Chris Leitch’s hit-or-miss 3-5-2, the San Jose Earthquakes took the field in 2017 with a tactical strategy in mind, but the final results did not always convince that the players were being utilized to their full potential.
It only took 45 minutes on Saturday at Avaya Stadium to get a tangible feel of what’s in store under newly-appointed manager Mikael Stahre. The Swede, as Chris Wondolowski hinted following the Quakes convincing 4-0 victory over USL affiliate side Reno 1868 FC, is prioritizing social competence among his locker room, but without leaving a developing yet scintillating tactical identity too far behind.
Throughout the span of three matches with San Jose, the 42-year-old manager has leaned on a nominal 4-4-2, that when in play is deceitful to its title. In reality, when the Bay Area side is in the attack, the shape reflects the construct of a 4-2-3-1, with advanced fullbacks and an emphasis on an ever-shifting front four.
In the early minutes against 1868 FC, the fluidity within the final third’s center and half-spaces, combined with the ability to successfully execute a counter-press and win the ball high up, allowed for the Quakes to strike on frame with ease which subsequently led to four goals in less than 40 minutes. For Wondolowski, who is a dozen goals from breaking Landon Donovan’s all-time goalscoring record, Stahre’s tactical implementation thus far is something he’s keen on.
“I love it, to be honest,” Quakes captain Wondolowski told Quakes Epicenter about lining up in between Vako and Magnus Eriksson and below Danny Hoesen.
“That’s [fluidity] for us to try to interchange and make it difficult for defenses to handle that whether it’s over on the side or however, stretching the defense — I love that,” he added. “I think it’s a part of our gameplay right now.”
Fundamental to the Quakes current gameplay, too, is the emphasis placed on the backline to maintain its shape and stability. Shea Salinas, who like Wondolowski has played under an array of tactical setups, has been instrumental to the Black and Blue’s early, positive preseason showings. The converted fullback — under Stahre’s methodology — is flourishing with his brilliant pace and technical prowess.
Convincing play that called for praise from the boss himself.
“First of all, he’s a really professional player, [he’s in] really good shape, he’s really strong, [and] is able to run from corner flag to corner flag,” Stahre told Quakes Epicenter about Salinas. And for me, he’s a really solid player playing in both directions. I think that’s his strongest quality: he’s really solid and can play in both directions.”
Despite Stahre’s position at the helm only being a couple weeks in and the season yet to arrive, the Quakes are quickly adopting a tactical identity that signals to generate goals, offer backline composure, wholistic equilibrium, and most importantly, one that will challenge the player’s off-the-ball nous and soccer IQ.