Earthquakes look to perfect the winning formula


Earthquakes look to perfect the winning formula

SAN JOSE Despite a series of injuries and suspensions, the Earthquakes finally found the winning formula last Saturday, beating the visiting Chicago Fire 2-0 to snap a franchise-record 13 game winless streak. While the team presses on, beset by absences and its playoff hopes dangling by a thread, the win provided a modicum of hope and an indication of what fans might see as the Earthquakes attempt to claw their way into a playoff berth. With Justin Morrow and Bobby Convey missing Saturdays win through injury and suspension, respectively, Sam Cronin and Simon Dawkins came in to cover, while Khari Stephenson continued to play in a forward role. Even with players returning to fitness, though, the replacements play against Chicago could be one indication that they are likely to continue seeing playing time. Dawkins was active on the left wing, passing accurately (40 out of 46 passes completed, or 87 accuracy) and demonstrating his ability to both beat a man and play an intelligent pass. Stephenson, playing forward alongside Chris Wondolowksi, was active outside the penalty area, and contributed on the buildup to Ramiro Corrales goal against Chicago. Both players were playing out of their natural positions, as they are both nominally central midfielders. Head coach frank Yallop praised the versatility of his players, highlighting that quality as one that has helped lift the team in recent weeks. I think any good player can play in any position. I wouldnt put them in a position if I didnt feel as a coach they could handle both spots, Yallop said. So I decided to put them both in those spots and its worked out great, I think both of them have played very well. Also benefiting from the shift in play is Wondolowski himself, who has now gathered two goals and an assist in his last two games to catapult himself right back into the race for the MLS Golden Boot. Wondolowski was the recipient of a cross from Rafael Baca, also recent addition to the lineup, for his first goal and indicated he was happy with the service he has been given. I think its been alright, I think the thing is we have a really deep team, Wondolowski said. I thought Kharis been playing really well up there. I think whoever steps in, Rafa Baca or Sam Cronin have been playing well up there, so its nice and its a good luxury to have and I think we need to keep building on that. Wondolowski also highlighted the role of understanding and communication among the forward line. He further highlighted that part of the teams deeper understanding simply came from playing together the length of the season. Its just one of those things, kind of all coming together, he explained. Its been seven months since weve been since preseason, so we know each other really well now and know the ins and outs, and we practice hard and work together on that front, so we feel that we can understand each other and go from there. Looking ahead to Saturdays trip to Houston, Bobby Convey, a natural left winger, will be available after serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. However, with Dawkins playing a positive role on the win over Chicago and syncing well with the rest of the team, Yallop could be set to start the Englishman once more. I think he Dawkins has the ability to dribble guys and get shots off and crosses off, so thats a different look, said Yallop, comparing Dawkins traits to Conveys. Bobbys a good possession player, whips early crosses, does come infield a little bit. Theyre both good players, Simon at the moment is doing well. There will, however, be one forced change to the lineup as Nana Attakora will replace Jason Hernandez (quadriceps strain) in the center of defense. However, Yallop indicated he has full faith in the 22-year-old Ontario-born center back. He looks better in training, he looks more assured, so hopefully he can now put that into practice and play a good game, Yallop said of his countryman. While Houston will certainly test the Earthquakes, the teams ability to adapt to continuous absences and to remain in sync in spite of those absences will be the key to any remaining playoff hopes.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Earthquakes sign Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as latest Designated Player

Earthquakes sign Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as latest Designated Player

(Editor's Note: The above video is from January 2017)

The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that the club has signed Georgia National Team attacking midfielder Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili as a Designated Player, pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and ITC. Qazaishvili scored for Georgia in their most recent World Cup qualifying match on June 11.

“We were looking for a player, a younger, offensive player, that really excites the fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

Qazaishvili, 24, becomes San Jose’s youngest ever Designated Player after six years with SBV Vitesse of the Dutch Eredivisie. He tallied 25 goals and 10 assists in 104 league games for the Dutch side, adding another three goals and three assists in other top-flight competition.

Qazaishvili began his career in his native Georgia with FC Saburtalo in 2010, spending time on loan with Metalurgi Rustavi and Sioni Bulnisi. He then moved on to Vitesse in August of 2011 at just 18 years old, tallying one goal in four appearances for the first team in his debut season.

From 2012-13 to 2013-14, Qazaishvili spent significant time with the U-21 squad, scoring 14 goals in 30 league appearances for the youth side and establishing himself as a first-team player.

Qazaishvili then scored nine goals during the 2014-15 Eredivisie season and a team-best 10 in 2015-16. He later spent the majority of the 2016-17 season on loan with Poland’s Legia Warsaw, helping them win the league championship with a 21-6-10 overall record.

In addition to his experience in league play, Qazaishvili has made eight appearances in international cup competition, including Europa League qualifiers, Europa League and UEFA Champions League. He appeared against clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in Champions League play.

He also has extensive experience playing with the Georgia National Team, scoring nine goals in 24 appearances at various youth levels and five goals in 23 appearances for the senior team.

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' draw with Sporting KC


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' draw with Sporting KC

SAN JOSE -- People say that the when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. 

So if you’re someone who believes in that, Saturday’s 0-0 draw is a good thing for the San Jose Earthquakes. After dropping two straight MLS matches, the Quakes needed to stop the bleeding and were faced with doing so against the Western Conference’s top team, Sporting Kansas City — no small task. 

Here are five things you need to know about a scoreless, albeit positive, affair Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium. 

— Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear’s troubles began even before San Jose took to the pitch on Saturday. We knew of three key cogs — Florian Jungwirth, Marco Urena, Darwin Ceren — already out with injury or suspension. But things got worse when Fatai Alashe and Simon Dawkins became unavailable. The result: Kinnear’s lineup card listed just 16 players — three of which have spent the vast majority of their season playing for San Jose’s United Soccer League affiliate, Reno 1868. Of those three, one saw playing time — Jackson Yueill, who made his MLS debut.

— The draw is positive for two reasons. One, San Jose was without several key players and it would have been very easy to use that as an excuse for a less than stellar effort. And two, the draws snaps a two-game MLS slide. The race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference is congested. San Jose may be in seventh place, but the draw keeps them just eight points behind first place Sporting KC. 

— The first half unfolded as expected — the shorthanded Quakes had no choice but to play a defensive game and hope Sporting KC made a mistake on a counterattack. That didn’t happen. In fact, three times, SKC had an open net and couldn’t capitalize. San Jose, on the other hand, did not record a single shot on Tim Melia’s goal. Things opened up a little more in the second half for the Quakes. But as its been the case for some time now, the Quakes simply could not break through. KC's Graham Zusi had arguably the match's best chance with mere seconds left to play. The clean sheet for Kansas City means the visitors have now allowed just eight road goals in nine matches all season long. 

— Saturday’s match against Sporting KC was the second in a very busy stretch for the Quakes. Last Wednesday, the Quakes took down the San Francisco Deltas (NASL) 2-0 in U.S. Open Cup play. However, the win means another game on the schedule the following Wednesday — against the reigning MLS champion Seattle Sounders. 

In all, by the time San Jose faces Los Angeles in Stanford Stadium for the Cali Clasico, the Quakes will have played five matches in 18 days before packing up for a cross country trip to Atlanta for another game on Independence Day. 

Tired legs, indeed. 

— A couple of logistic particulars: Saturday’s reported attendance was 18,000 — another sell-out for Avaya Stadium where the Quakes remain very stout. As a side note, the Quakes announced earlier in the week they have sold over 30,000 tickets for the aforementioned Cali Clasico at Stanford Stadium. 

Chris Wondolowski and Anibal Godoy went into the book with yellow cards on Saturday. 

Next up, the Quakes will take on Real Salt Lake next Saturday at Avaya Stadium with kick scheduled for 7:30 p.m.