Matias Almeyda Galaxy sideline

MATCH PREVIEW: Quakes defense rebounds, seeks momentum vs. Portland

While it’s natural not to get too excited about a scoreless draw at home, the San Jose Earthquakes checked off an important box during their recent clash with the LA Galaxy on Sunday night. After a poor defensive showing on Thursday in Seattle, the team needed to rebound in a major way to keep the league’s hottest team in check. LA had scored three goals in three consecutive games as part of their four-match winning streak.

San Jose did just that, holding the Galaxy to no goals on just two shots on target, providing a much-needed confidence boost and reminding the team what has worked well.

Head coach Matias Almeyda made a number of lineup changes to stir things up. Tommy Thompson, who has traditionally played at right back, made his first appearance in central midfield in years. Defender Florian Jungwirth was also moved into central midfield, allowing Guram Kashia to return to his spot at center back. Nick Lima took over at right back, where he was a finalist for the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year award, and Shea Salinas started in place of Vako at left wing.

“I think it was a hard-fought game,” said Thompson postgame. “I think our energy and our discipline as a team was one of the biggest differences. We made it clear in the locker room that we wanted to show something different. What happened on Thursday couldn’t happen today. We wanted to make sure that we were in good shape, that we were doing everything we can to get back to the performances that we had in Orlando. We have a different schedule right now. There’s a lot of games in not a lot of time, and not a lot of time for training. Everyone has to be ready; everyone has to be on their toes, everyone’s got to contribute in any way that they can.”

“We wanted to come out with unity,” added Jackson Yueill. “We wanted to be a team again and to press like a team. I think against the [Seattle] Sounders, we were missing a little bit of that aggression and that team bond that we carry with us. Today, our goal was to be aggressive, to be confident in one another, trust each other, and play for the guy next to you. I think the team did really well with that today.”

Almeyda explained that his tactics require extensive training to fully execute. In 2019, his first year at the helm, the team got off to a poor start (0-4-0) before firing on all cylinders and becoming one of the best in the league for much of the season.

“This was an important game mentally and because it was also a Clasico,” said Almeyda after Sunday’s match.

“Practicing only two days, playing every three days, and traveling are definite factors. Also, natural causes such as canceling a practice due to the bad air quality – it all affects us. Especially because this team needs to train. Tonight, the players left it all on the field. We’ll see how we recover for the next game.”

Wednesday’s opponent, the Portland Timbers, won the MLS is Back Tournament with an impressive run through the competition. In MLS play, the side is 4-4-2 and in sixth place in the Western Conference.

The Timbers started the season with wins in three of their first four matches but have since picked up just one in their last six (1-3-2). The team’s most recent result was a 4-2 loss on the road at LAFC on Sunday.

Portland will be without a familiar face on Wednesday, as star midfielder Sebastian Blanco suffered a torn ACL. Blanco was named the MLS is Back Tournament MVP after scoring three goals and adding five assists.

Former MLS MVP Diego Valeri and rising star Jeremy Ebobisse lead the way for the Timbers’ offense, having scored four goals apiece this season. Valeri, one of the best players in league history, is one of just three players with 80+ goals and 80+ assists to their name (Landon Donovan, Jaime Moreno).

Wednesday’s match, presented by Fastmetrics, kicks off from Earthquakes Stadium at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.

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