Quakes' Baca looks to make starting spot his own


Quakes' Baca looks to make starting spot his own

Nick Rosano

SANTA CLARA, Calif. Rafael Baca has been more than patient waiting for his turn with the Earthquakes. After training with the team since mid-February, the former Loyola Marymount midfielder had to wait until July 8 to sign with the team. Even then, he had to wait over another month to get a chance to play in his preferred position, first being utilized as a winger in a series of substitute appearances interspersed with one start in his teams 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. Recently, though, head coach Frank Yallop has turned to the versatile Mexican-born midfielder as the teams lineup suffered through a spate of injuries and suspensions, and the coach likes what he sees. He has great energy, I think hes using the ball well, been an excellent teammates, I think hes worked very hard for the team, hes been good, Yallop said of Bacas contributions to the team. I think him and Ramiro Corrales, the two of them struck up a nice partnership real quickly and played some good stuff. Since some shaky opening minutes in his first start centrally, alongside Corrales in the Earthquakes 2-0 loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 20, Baca has stepped up alongside the veteran Corrales nominally a left back to help the team improve its possession. For Baca the switch to a more central position is a welcome one. I think its better, I think its a position that I like playing more, said Baca, of the switch. I feel more comfortable there, I like to be on the ball more, so I think that position you have to be more active and you get more of ball, more touches on the ball. While Baca has been comfortable playing alongside Corrales, the injury and suspension situation has necessitated yet another change in the center of the park. While Baca will remain in the center, a hamstring injury to Justin Morrow and the suspension of Bobby Convey for yellow card accumulation requires Yallop to move Corrales back to his left back position. The Earthquakes have a number of options to fill the spot left by Corrales, but with Khari Stephenson likely to continue playing up front and Brad Ring recovering from a shoulder injury, Sam Cronin will likely be the player Yallop turns to. Despite the fact that Bacas path to a starting spot has been largely influenced by injuries, Yallop insists that Baca has earned the right to continue playing in the first team thanks to his positive performances against Los Angeles and in the teams 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. Right now were trying to win every game we can, so you dont tend to just throw guys in, Yallop said, indicating he was not simply just testing out Baca and Morrow, who has also enjoyed a run as a starter. Theyve been given their chance and I think theyve done fantastic, both of them. However, Baca is not just content with playing to fill in and keep starting for the rest of 2011, he is keen continue improving so as to make the starting spot his own in 2012. Yeah, I think besides locking it down, I think theres always room to improve, little things that you have to work on as a rookie, Baca said of his desire to make the position his own, and credited his teammates with helping him. I think with the type of player that we have, I get a lot of help from them, a lot of advice, so I think its good. In the teams upcoming showdown with the Chicago, where any result other than a win would likely extinguish the teams already extremely slim playoff hopes, Baca knows the team must be more careful with its possession, and believes he can help. I think just in the final third of the field, make sure we connect those passes. I think thats something weve been lacking the last few games, said Baca, when asked about what the team can do to be more incisive. In the last third we make the wrong pass or make the wrong decision. Looking at his individual game, Baca acknowledged the need to rely more on his attacking instincts, saying, I think I need to just try to go forward more, try to be more offensive, create more attack. Thats one of those things that me as a player has to improve and hopefully I can do it on Saturday against Chicago.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' lopsided loss to Red Bulls


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' lopsided loss to Red Bulls


The San Jose Earthquakes had one big thing going for them when they took on the New York Red Bulls Wednesday evening — they were on 10 days rest having last played a truly competitive match on July 10 in U.S. Open Cup action.

Unfortunately for the Quakes, they failed to take advantage of that in losing to the Red Bulls 5-1 — definitely not the return to the pitch they were hoping for.  

Here are five takeaways from a Wednesday evening, lopsided loss to NYR. 

— The Quakes had no answer for Sacha Kljestan. The Red Bulls midfielder, who frequented the U.S. Men’s National Team roster at one point, was not called to international duty for the ongoing FIFA Gold Cup and San Jose paid the price for that — the man finessed the Quakes to death on Wednesday evening, factoring in three New York goals with his use of spacing in the Red Bulls midfield. 

— There were a couple of big debuts for San Jose. First, newly signed designated player Valeri Qazaishvili — who the MLS world is calling Vako — made his league debut when in he came as a substitute for Danny Hoesen at halftime. The Georgian native showed flashes with his early touch, but never really factored in the game until the 88th minute when he scored the Quakes’ lone goal on a volley tap courtesy of a nifty Jahmir Hyka cross. It’s a nice debut on the scoresheet, but San Jose is expecting DP-esque things from the Georgian. 

— And second, welcome back, Quincy Amarikwa. The forward has been sidelined since September of 2016 when he suffered ACL and LCL damage that required surgery. Amarikwa has been documenting his recovery on social media and surprised Quakes fans when he make his on-pitch return last week in a friendly against Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. On Wednesday, he made his official return in the 76th minute. Amarikwa has nine goals and seven assists in 41 career appearances with the Quakes. 

— It definitely wasn’t the homecoming head coach Chris Leitch was hoping for. Leitch played for five seasons over with the New York club. He made 101 appearances for the Metrostars/Red Bulls, assisting on five goals during his career. 

He’s now 0-1-0 as an opposing head coach. 

— It’s unfair to nitpick on a single defensive effort, given that soccer is a team sport, but the Red Bulls attacked center back Andres Imperiale often Wednesday afternoon — and more often than not, they were rewarded with a scoring opportunity. It’s the second straight poor showing on the road for the Quakes defense as a whole after surrendering a four-spot to Atlanta United FC on Independence Day.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' historic US Open Cup win over Galaxy

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Quakes' historic US Open Cup win over Galaxy

It was a historic night over at Avaya Stadium. 

For the first time in U.S. Open Cup history, the San Jose Earthquakes have beaten their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy -- 3-2. 

The win also propels the Quakes to just their second appearance in the tournament's semifinals. 

Chris Wondolowski scored a brace to lead the way while Danny Hoesen added the insurance. 

Here are a handful of things to know about Monday's win over the Galaxy. 

-- The sixth time was the charm as the Quakes had lost five previous meetings against their rivals. But the night began with some doubts when Jelle Van Damme scored in just the third minute. His header was goal No. 2 in the last two games against the Quakes.

But Wondolowski equalized courtesy of Tommy Thompson in the 16th minute and then put the San Jose up for good six minutes in the second half -- once again, thanks to Thompson. 

Hoesen scored a breakaway goal about ten minutes later.  

-- If you tried to find Wondolowski on the pitch using his regular number, you were unsuccessful. 

Wondolowski was sporting No. 38 Monday night in honor of Matheus Silva, the Quakes midfielder playing for Reno 1868 on loan who suffered swimming accident July 4 in Lake Tahoe. 

Silva was in a coma until July 6. 

Fittingly, the forward scored twice. Wondolowski's goal is the sixth of his U.S. Open Cup career. He's now tied for the all-time lead in Earthquakes history.  

-- Pregame, the Quakes introduced their latest acquisition, Designated Player Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili, to the press. 

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.

-- Speaking of Georgia, the Bay Area now boasts two of the nation's very best athletes. Zaza Pachulia, the starting center of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, was in attendance MOnday night. 

The center kicked the ceremonial first goal. 

He also swapped jerseys with Vako -- as per usual in soccer circles. No word on Pachulia's footy game. 

-- The Quakes have already equaled their best ever finish in Cup history. They'll now try to surpass that when they face either Sporting Kansas City of FC Dallas -- who play Tuesday night.