Coming off of a season opening road win in Vancouver, Minnesota United head to San Jose looking to continue their successful start to the 2019 campaign.
Editor’s Note: Staff photographer Tim McLaughlin happens to be a Quakes fan (although he insists he is rooting for the Loons success as well) so we sat down with him to learn a bit about Saturday’s opponent.
Q: San Jose have a new manager in Matias Almeyda. What does he bring to the table?
A: Almeyda is the biggest signing in Quakes history, I don’t think anyone saw it coming. The Argentine was rumoured to be joining the Argentinian National team and was a fan favorite to take over the Mexican National team job. He has become somewhat of a specialist at reviving struggling teams during his coaching career. He gained promotion to the first division with both clubs he managed in Argentina (River Plate and Banfield) and won multiple titles with Chivas during his time in Mexico. His possession based offense and high pressing defense gives the Quakes a distinctive new playing style.
Q: Who are some of the players to watch in 2019?
A: The biggest storyline right now is Chris Wondolowski sitting at 144 career MLS goals scored, one goal away from the MLS all time scoring record currently held by former teammate Landon Donovan.
Right winger Cristian Espinoza (on loan from side La Liga Villarreal) showed his ability to thread dangerous balls into the box during the preseason but was less effective during last weeks 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact. Expectations are high for him once he acclimates to the league.
Other offseason acquisitions defensive midfielder Judson, 19 year old Peruvian left back Marcos López, and goalkeeper Mario Vega will all be looking to solidify their places on this team.
Magnus Eriksson has taken on a more central role that appears to be a better fit for him. The former Allsvenskan MVP and golden boot winner arrived with high expectations last year and struggled to keep up with the pace of MLS while playing as a winger.
Keep an eye on Designated Player Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili. Coming off of a 10 goal and 5 assist season, Almeyda has moved the Georgian playmaker out to the left wing and he will be heavily involved in the attack.
Right Back Nick Lima was the breakout player at USMNT camp cupcake this year. He bagged an assist in his first USMNT call up and showed how dangerous he can be on both sides of the ball.
It’s of local interest to include Bloomington, MN native and former Thunder Academy player Jackson Yueill. The 21 year old came off the bench in 69th minute last week and had a nice showing in the midfield.
Q: What’s the expectation for a team coming off of a terrible 2018?
I think as Quakes fans we have been through a lot of mediocrity recently and are keeping our expectations tempered. There was a lot of excitement heading into last year and it turned out to be one of the worst seasons in MLS history. When Almeyda was announced we were hoping for a pretty dramatic roster overhaul. However, the offseason showed us that despite adding 4 new starters, the front office is still not ready to pull the trigger on big name signings. The return to glory is not going to come overnight and learning Almeyda’s system is going to be difficult for these players. We are in a position where we are just looking to make steps in the right direction and hopefully see a change in the culture and reputation of this club.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Lopez, Cummings, Kashia, Lima
Eriksson, Vako, Espinoza
P.S. Please beat LA for us next week.