Many players on the San Jose Earthquakes have gotten league-wide exposure during their run of success, including Chris Wondolowski, Vako, Cristian Espinoza and Jackson Yueill. One key player that perhaps isn’t being celebrated as much as he’s deserved is defender Florian Jungwirth.
After a brutally difficult preseason with all 11 spots on the line, Jungwirth was not selected as one of the team’s two starters at center back. Instead, the tandem of Georgian Guram Kashia and Panamanian Harold Cummings led the Quakes out on opening day and each of the three matches that followed.
A lower leg injury sustained by Guram Kashia on March 30 led to an opening in the starting lineup the following week against Portland. It represented Jungwirth’s first opportunity of the year.
“It wasn’t that difficult [to not be playing],” explained Jungwirth on Wednesday. “Of course, as a player you always want to play, but I’ve been in the business for 11 years and I’ve always had situations where I wasn’t starting. You have to get used to that situation; you have to be patient, and when you get your shot, you have to be there.”
San Jose’s defense has been under constant rotation since the start of the year. Cummings and Kashia have been in and out of the lineup for various reasons, while Marcos Lopez and Nick Lima have battled over the left back role. Jungwirth is the club’s only field player to play every single minute of action since April 6. The club is 0-4-0 without him; 10-3-4 with.
Regardless of the task at hand, the former Germany youth international has risen to the occasion. Assigned to man-mark Zlatan Ibrahimovic twice in a two-week span, Jungwirth held the Swedish superstar without a goal and rendered the 6’5 forward nearly invisible on both occasions. Ibrahimovic didn’t take a single shot on or off target during their match in Carson, Calif. on June 12. Earthquakes midfielder Vako had 10 in the same game.
“I think I used my chance and I think I’ve proven that I’m one of the best defenders in this league. I want to help this group reach the playoffs and maybe a bit more.”
Jungwirth believes that every step the Quakes have taken since coming together back in January has contributed to the success the team is experiencing right now.
“It was a long and rocky process. I think having a family [atmosphere] in the locker [room] is what every coach wants, but it’s really tough to execute. The way it started from day one, especially in Cancún, we created an identity in the locker [room] and that’s helped a lot.
“In the end, you want to have good results as a player and also as a coach. It’s tough but the most important point was that we didn’t surrender, and we still believed in these values and kept going on and playing our style.”
The Earthquakes seek to extend their home unbeaten streak to nine matches on Saturday vs. the Colorado Rapids, presented by Good Humor. Kickoff is set for 6:45 p.m. and the match will be broadcast live on Telemundo 48, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.