Nashville SC play their seventh consecutive road match on Saturday, facing off with the San Jose Earthquakes for the first time. To get the latest on the Quakes, we spoke with Jamon Moore, who covers San Jose for the Quakes Epicenter.
Ben Wright: San Jose are the only remaining winless team in MLS this year, and it seems like Matias Almeyda is in the news even more than usual. What’s gone wrong for them so far, and is there an obvious solution?
Jamon Moore: It’s difficult to envision a solution under Almeyda with all the rumors swirling about the Chilean national team and Chivas firing their head coach, along with the Liga MX season ending on May 1. He doesn’t seem like he will be coaching this team much longer.
At this point, the players are playing for their contracts and their pride, and the roster feels much better than it’s playing with competent MLS starters in almost every starting position. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how aggressive the defense is and preventing mistakes in the back, while keeping the momentum going in the attack. The Quakes have had the better of the Expected Goals battle the last two weeks. Now they need to clean up the defensive mistakes to get a win.
BW: Under Almeyda they’ve used a man-marking system that’s certainly one of the more unique systems around the league. How effective has it been, especially this year, and how do you expect it to work against Nashville?
JM: In 2019, it felt more like a legitimate defensive model for much of the season. But Bielsa burnout is real, and the team floundered down the stretch. They’ve never quite put it fully together since then, with many more bad stretches than good stretches. Almeyda has ditched it at times, and I have to wonder if Nashville’s attack has him thinking about ditching it on Saturday in favor of a different look. However, with the Quakes at home, Almeyda feels like they should be the protagonist, so I expect to see a good amount of man-marking from a 4-2-3-1.
Defensively, they have struggled without Nathan, having to play Tanner Beason on the right side instead of his heavily favored left side. Francisco Calvo has been boom-and-bust, scoring set piece goals and creating attacking transitions, but also making some big defensive mistakes as well. If Almeyda decides to play him differently and put Tanner Beason deeper, it might work out long enough for the Quakes to grab a lead and hold it.
BW: Jeremy Ebobisse was a high-profile addition to this San Jose attack last season. How has he adapted and who else should Nashville look out for? How can this Earthquakes side hurt Nashville?
JM: The attack has been improving quickly with Jeremy Ebobisse getting a brace last week and much more involved now. The team is connecting back-to-front better and is passing more aggressively in key areas. Weapons like Cristian Espinoza, Cade Cowell, Benji Kikanovic, Chofis Lopez, and acquired DP Jamiro Monteiro are all capable of putting it together and scoring multiple goals a game.
The youth, like homegrown Niko Tsakiris and SuperDraft pick Ousseni Bouda, has also been stepping up as well, often outplaying the veterans. Chofis and Kikanovic, arguably the Quakes’ most consistent attacking weapons, have both been injured and the attack has still looked pretty good. They’re always a threat on set pieces, and Jan Gregus, who provides that set piece service, has four assists already.
BW: Do you have a prediction?
JM: The Quakes have drawn their last two results at home, and, given Nashville’s penchant for draws and close games, I’d say a 2-2 result feels like the most logical prediction.
Thanks to Jamon for helping us preview San Jose, and make sure to check out his work by following @JMooreQuakes and @QuakesEpicenter. Jamon and I also previewed the match on The Aftershock podcast, which you can check out here: