Hope you didn’t miss it.
The San Jose Earthquakes opened the 2017 season with a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact, and the score line doesn’t nearly do it justice. A lopsided contest results in three points for the home side in matchday 1.
From the opening kick to the final whistle, the Quakes controlled the tempo of the match, creating chance after chance on Evan Bush’s net. Anibal Godoy’s goal in the 17th minute, cleverly chipping the keeper from 16 yards or so out, proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
The biggest takeaway from the match wasn’t the score, or the goal, or the raucous sellout crowd, however, but rather that the Quakes put a tremendous offseason on a platter for the rest of the league to see. Homegrown fullback Nick Lima, center back Florian (Flo) Jungwirth, forwards Marco Ureña and Danny Hoesen, and midfielder Jahmir Hyka all made their MLS debuts in stunning form.
Lima, 22, just months removed from playing at Cal, rendered superstar Ignacio Piatti completely ineffective. Piatti, widely considered among the most dangerous attackers in MLS, had trouble completing passes all night and didn’t create a single chance on net in 90 minutes. In fact, the Earthquakes young defender fired off three times as many shots as the Argentine.
Jungwirth proved to be a perfect compliment to Victor Bernardez on the team’s back line. Bernardez provided size, strength and composure, while Flo’s agility, man-marking and intelligence swiped away all opportunity for the Impact. A member of the traveling Montreal media even singled out Jungwirth as a potential end-of-season award winner after watching him for just 45 minutes on Saturday night.
“Honestly, I really enjoyed it from the first to the last minute,” said Jungwirth to a group of media anxious to speak with the German defenseman postgame. “It was a really great match for us. The plan was to attack early, to give a lot of pressure on Montreal. I think from the start you see there was just one direction for the team. In the end we win, which was the most important goal."
This offseason, the Quakes got younger, deeper and more dynamic—no ifs, ands or buts about it. The way the team’s starting XI looked on Saturday—even without Hyka and Hoesen—shows just what this team is capable of in 2017. The starting XI had an average age of just 27, thanks in large part to the team’s right wing of Tommy Thompson, 21, and Lima, as well as 23-year-old center midfielder Fatai Alashe.
Head coach Dominic Kinnear, who hasn’t always had the luxury of depth at every position in past years, doesn’t have that problem right now. In fact, his hardest task might just be finding a way to utilize all of the talent on the roster every game. Does Hyka become a starter? Can Tommy Thompson continue to lock down the right wing? Will Hoesen thrive off the bench or will he force his way into the XI? Where does Harold Cummings fit when he returns from offseason surgery? These are simply not easy questions to answer.
Find out next Saturday when the Earthquakes return to action at Avaya Stadium against Vancouver Whitecaps FC at 6:45 p.m. Catch a sneak peak of the Quakes’ opponent later today when they take on the Philadelphia Union at 6:30 p.m. PT.