SARATOGA, Calif. -- All members of the Earthquakes’ traveling party did, in fact, make their way out of London last weekend. Given the way the team had been treated during its training-camp stay, you wouldn’t have been off-base to ask for a second head count, just to make sure nobody stayed behind.
Instead of using a more prosaic location to get away and bond, the Quakes took advantage of their partnership with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. And Spurs rolled out the red carpet for their foreign guests, treating the MLS players to a level of hospitality that left even the most veteran among them in a state of wonderment.
“Out of all my years in MLS, it was by far my best preseason trip I’ve been involved in, with the facilities and the accommodations,” said Quakes goalie Joe Cannon, who is entering his 12th MLS season. “The food we can talk about, but I think for the most part the quality of play, the experience of being able to watch the games at White Hart Lane and Emirates [Stadium] ... it was really a good steppingstone, hopefully, for this team, to get our confidence back, our swagger.”
The swagger is fully intact; San Jose bested West Ham United (2-0), Tottenham (1-0) and the Colorado Rapids (2-0) during their 10 days in the UK. Even though the EPL sides were not full strength, San Jose head coach Frank Yallop still felt they had value for his club.
“I think that we proved, especially against West Ham, that we can compete and play well,” Yallop said. “We really played well in that game against West Ham, and it didn’t stop; we played well against Spurs and against Colorado, and deserved all three wins. Three clean sheets is always good.”
Those results, though they count for zero points in the MLS standings, are critical because the Quakes are desperate to avoid a repeat of their 1-8-2 start from last season. San Jose was all but eliminated from postseason consideration with two-thirds of the schedule left to play.
“That’s what this team needs, is to kind of find these good things to hold onto in the beginning and get a good start,” Cannon said.
Good as the work on the field turned out to be, Yallop thinks his players will draw more from the off-field experiences of visiting an area where soccer dominates the sports page.
“I think the experience of being at a club like Tottenham was great for our players,” Yallop said. “You can’t put it into words, really, what it means to be around a proper environment of professionalism and a good team.”
To Bobby Convey, who spent 4 1/2 years with Reading and helped the Royals reach the EPL, the experience gives his current teammates something to shoot for.
“I think it’s always good for guys to see how the top professionals train and how they play, how important it is -- the stadium’s filled, and it’s a lot of pressure,” Convey said. “That’s the highest you can get to, so it’s always good to see what you need to aspire to be.”