Right now, there are a lot of fans doing hand wringing and other various forms of expending nervous energy over the Quakes back line. I'm not here to tell you that you're wrong to express concern (small sample size, whatever), but I am here to point out a couple of things:
*There are currently 3 teams above the red line in MLS that have a negative goal differential (Vancouver, Minnesota, and New England).
*Three teams above the red line have the same or fewer PPG as San Jose.
*Sounders FC and Toronto FC, the last two champions of Major League Soccer, and the two teams that have represented both conferences in the MLS Cup for the past two years both have zero points on the table.
*Sporting Kansas City, known for their defensive prowess, has allowed nine goals in just four games.
Major League Soccer, in transitional period, is increasing in offensive quality faster than defensive quality, because goals bring eyes and money more than defense. The month of March should never be viewed as the be all end all for judgement of a team, nor should October. That said, if you identify consistent problems that linger from week one to week eight, it might mean you need a change (like Minnesota in 2017). I am all for overreactions, and I embrace them as much as anyone (if reactions are good, over reactions are better - for sports at least), but trying to accurately assess the Quakes back line after two games seems premature. Last year, the Quakes were 2-0-0 after two matches, but both wins happened against teams down a man. They also both included goals from Anibal Godoy. These trends did not continue. Half of the Quakes starting back line is "new" right now, as well. Teams take time to gel, relationships and chemistry take time to form, and overall cohesion for a back line doesn't happen overnight, or in two matches. Opinions, however....
Now let’s look ahead to NYCFC. This is a very good team, tied for most points in MLS after four matches, and with quality wins over perennial playoff contenders in Sporting Kansas City (at Children's Mercy), the revamped LA Galaxy, the off-season darlings Orlando, and a draw against Brad Friedel's New England Revolution. Led by David Villa (who is dealing with an injury) NYCFC have established themselves as the early season "best in MLS" by many pundits, but have always been played tough by San Jose. NYCFC leads the overall series 2-0-1, but those two wins have not been easy, both by only a goal, and both in New York. 2016 saw the then anemic Quakes outplay NYCFC (in my opinion), but could not find the back of the net in a scoreless draw. Whether or not Villa plays, the Quakes will be facing a stiff challenge, but this is when the shelter that is Avaya Stadium can play a big role.
I expect Vako to net a goal in this one, as he's turning into a scoring machine (Watch this wonder-goal he scored in intenation play this week). Wondo scored in the last game and he tends to score in bunches. However, the player that I am expecting to have their breakout, is Magnus Eriksson. Magnus has looked progressively more comfortable, and more skilled, throughout his two MLS starts; in the friendly this past weekend vs Club Leon he showed himself very much to have the potential to be a game changer. Like I mentioned above, I don't judge the back line off their first two performances, and I wasn't writing of Magnus off after two quality, but quiet performances. It took Danny Hoesen a while to get into the groove last year, I'm willing to bet it'll take Magnus a little less time, as the quality across the board is better for San Jose right now than it was at this time last year.
Lastly, did you guys see Nick Lima on Saturday night? His crosses are lethal, and his footwork for a fullback/wingback is filthy in the best way. He might not have gotten this most recent USMNT call-up, but there will definitely be more in the near future. He's one of those guys that whenever he gets the ball and the Quakes are moving on the attack, good things start happening (like his ball for the Vako equalizer in KC) #Lima2022
Ted Ramey, SJ Earthquakes PXP @tedrameymedia