Synchronicity is a great and wonderful thing. Like when one needs to find an interviewee for three questions, and you know of a blog that is going to launch on the network, and then you find out that they are launching the very week that the Sounders face the Earthquakes.
So go welcome Quake, Rattle and Goal to SBNation.
Here are three questions that they know the answer to now, but you should before the game.
DC: Why isn't Ike Opara a starter this early season?
Robert Jonas: Ike Opara has the size and athleticism to be a top shelf defender in MLS, and with some seasoning he should be a very effective player when he opts to play overseas. Opara is fully recovered from injuries suffered last summer and during an off-season trip with Team Generation Adidas to Spain in December. He would certainly be a starting center back for nearly half the teams in the league, but in San Jose he is third on the depth chart behind defensive duo Jason Hernandez and Brandon McDonald. Cracking that twosome to get into the Earthquakes starting XI will likely require a significantly poor performance or an injury by either player. Opara might have a great deal of upside talent-wise, but Hernandez and McDonald are no slouches. Both current Quakes starters are veterans of USMNT Head Coach Bob Bradley’s January training camp — Hernandez in 2009 and McDonald in 2010 — indicating that their quality is recognized outside of San Jose. Opara did see some playing time in the Earthquakes 2-0 win at FC Dallas, coming into the match as an 83rd minute substitution, and was instrumental in fending off a late Dallas surge to preserve his side’s clean sheet. That performance, coupled with a solid showing in a mid-week reserve league victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, will give Head Coach Frank Yallop plenty to think about as his fills out his roster for Saturday. Opara projects to be in the game day 18, but will likely see the field only if the Earthquakes are trying to protect a late game lead.
DC: Is there anything Bobby Convey can do to get a recall to the National team? His club performance has seemed strong.
QRG: There are things in life which cannot be explained — why does buttered bread always fall face down, where do all the missing socks disappear to when lost at the local laundromat, and who decided Jeff Agoos deserved a promotion to MLS Technical Director — that are as equally baffling as to why Bobby Convey continues to be left off the USMNT list of invitees every time a national team camp opens up. When asked directly about the subject, Convey often deflects away giving an answer by claiming he knows nothing about the situation. He stated at this time last spring that he was still hopeful of being invited to the pre-World Cup training camp, invoking his strong start to the MLS season as evidence he had returned to full fitness and ability. In the recent training camp held in preparation of January’s match with Chile, MLS players dominated the roster — including Earthquakes teammates Sam Cronin and Chris Wondolowski — but Convey was according to one person familiar with the process deemed just outside the selection zone. For all intents and purposes, Convey seems to have put his national team career behind him as he now concentrates on what he can do for his club. The two-goal performance against the New York Red Bulls in last season’s MLS Cup playoffs was evidence that Convey can still be an impact player, and perhaps he’ll one day return to the USMNT fold, but for now he is single-mindedly focused on pushing the Earthquakes back into the postseason.
DC: Some teams have preferred to keep talent close in order to succeed (Seattle, RSL, Colorado) while others competing for titles followed the path of roster churn (most of the League). Why is the relatively high turnover going to succeed in San Jose?
Quake, Rattle and Goal: Some flashy names departed San Jose during the MLS off-season — most notably Geovanni, the club’s first ever Designated Player — but the opening day line-up card could have easily been recycled from an August 2010 Earthquakes match. Projected starters at the start of the 2010 season Cornell Glen, Eduardo, Arturo Alvarez, and Joe Cannon quickly became bench warming material, and only when they remained healthy enough to even be considered for playing time. Sensing that the true core of the team involved none of the departed five, Coach Yallop and General Manager John Doyle instead looked to bring in some complementary parts for the system that was developing for the Earthquakes. Quick, ball-control orientated attacking players like Simon Dawkins and Ellis McLoughlin were brought in, as well as striker projects Steven Lenhart and Matt Luzunaris. In what may eventually prove to be the steal of the 2011 MLS Superdraft the Earthquakes picked up a playmaker in four-year Akron starter Anthony Ampaipitakwong. Showing the poise of a seasoned MLS player in his rookie debut against Real Salt Lake in week one, Ampai should often feature as the first attacking midfielder off the bench when the Earthquakes are trailing in a game and looking for a late result. With all of these new players, of which Lenhart and Dawkins have the best chance to be regular fixtures in the Coach Yallop’s starting XI, little has changed in the core tactics used by the team, and that familiarity of style should help the Earthquakes continue the good form they displayed in 2010.
DC: The Sounders launch their Reserve League this weekend. What one player would you expect to be a standout for the Reserves on the Quakes?
Still quaking: Having already obtained a victory in the reintroduced MLS Reserve League — a 2-1 midweek victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC — the Earthquakes coaching staff revealed that they will take the 10 game schedule very seriously as a way to give borderline and rehabilitating players a chance to be prove themselves worthy of the senior squad roster. One notable performance from the win over the Whitecaps reserves came courtesy of newly signed forward Matt Luzunaris, who netted the game winner for the Quakes midway through the second half. Returning stateside after a stalled career in Austria, the 22-year old native of Florida prefers to position himself up the field at the limit of being offside in every attacking play. The Quakes second leading scorer in the preseason (behind only Chris Wondolowski unsurprisingly), Luzunaris will be a fixture with the reserves as he hopes to challenge Steven Lenhart and Ryan Johnson for first team regular season minutes.
Head over to Quake, Rattle and Goal to see their questions and my answers.