sjsea

As the San Jose Earthquakes prepare for Friday’s home match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, we have some time to reflect on the team’s recent run of form as well as take a broader look at the club’s prospects moving forward.

After a hot start to the season (3-1-0), San Jose stumbled and failed to regain their footing for a month and a half (0-6-1). However, with some tactical adjustments by head coach Matias Almeyda, the signing of center back Nathan, and the continued ascension of young players, the Quakes are in the midst of a good run of form since the start of July (2-0-5), including wins in two of their last three matches.

The acquisition of Nathan has coincided with the team’s stabilization, as the tall Brazilian defender has provided energy and flair while anchoring the club’s seemingly recharged defense, which has allowed one or fewer goals in six straight matches. He has also contributed offensively with two goals, including the opener on Sunday vs. LAFC, leading to a Team of the Week selection.

What has many people around the club buzzing with excitement is not just what the team has done in recent weeks, but how the Quakes are shaping up for the future. Among all players on the squad that have started at least half of the matches so far this season (9 of 18), only Oswaldo Alanis and Florian Jungwirth are over 30 years old. Jungwirth was recently traded to Vancouver, San Jose’s next opponent, helping to clear valuable cap space and welcome General Allocation Money that can be used in the near future.

The Earthquakes’ core this season is decidedly more youthful. With regards to minutes played in 2021, seven of the top eight on the current roster are 26 years of age or younger:

MOST MINUTES PLAYED IN 2021, CURRENT EARTHQUAKES ROSTER
Name
Age
Position
Minutes Played
JT Marcinkowski
24
GK
1,620
Cristian Espinoza
26
M
1,483
Eric Remedi
26
M
1,284
Oswaldo Alanis
32
D
1,247
Chofis
26
M
1,171
Jackson Yueill
24
M
1,118
Cade Cowell*
17
F
1,109
Tanner Beason
24
D
988
*2021 MLS All-Star

That list doesn’t even include 26-year-old Nathan, who has played every minute since arriving in San Jose seven matches ago. The Quakes also recently acquired 24-year-old Jeremy Ebobisse, one’s of the league’s most revered young strikers, and signed him to a three-year extension beyond this season.

San Jose also has Paul Marie (26), Tommy Thompson (25), Jack Skahan (23), Marcos Lopez (21), Benji Kikanovic (21), and Siad Haji (21) as First Team contributors 26 years of age and younger, with teenagers such as defender Casey Walls (17) and goalkeeper Emi Ochoa (16), among others, waiting in the wings.

Chris Leitch, the team’s Technical Director and current Chief Soccer Officer, reiterated the point of finding up-and-coming players during Ebobisse’s introductory press conference last Friday and confirmed that was part of the team’s go-forward strategy.

“I think bringing young up-and-coming players that are also proven is very attractive,” Leitch said last week. “Jeremy’s profile, the fact that he can play the number nine position, that he’s been involved in the various national teams in his young career, the fact that every time he steps on the field, you can tell the difference he makes. For those reasons and many more, that made sense for us. From a timing perspective, we’re constantly trying to get better as an organization, trying to improve what we do on the field, and we felt collectively that Jeremy can do just that.”

The rise of young talent on the Quakes’ roster doesn’t detract from the contributions of elder members of the squad. The aforementioned Alanis (32) has been a veteran staple on the backline all season long, while Shea Salinas (35) continues to be one of the club’s most versatile and dynamic players, capable of playing winger or fullback on either side of the field. The legendary Chris Wondolowski (38) has made five starts and is the team’s second-most-used substitute with 12 appearances off the bench, tied for fourth most in MLS.

The Quakes not only have a core to build around for the future, but also a promising talent base in the Academy and significant roster flexibility beginning this offseason. Whether Leitch retains his position permanently or someone is brought in from the outside, creating a sense of sustainability is key and this roster is shaping up to do just that.