The San Jose Earthquakes are off to a red-hot start, currently sitting in second place in the Western Conference with a 2-1-0 record. Here are five things we’ve learned about this team after three matches.
1. Cade Cowell is the real deal
When you talk about sports superstars, there are really two types that emerge: 1) those with an unnatural freakish athletic ability, possibly in part due to genetics, and 2) those with a work ethic that rises well above the competition. In the case of Cade Cowell, could he be… both?
All the chatter about Cowell over the past two seasons has been his physical attributes; speed, strength, power, agility, etc. But after three weeks, two spectacular goals and a league-best three assists, people are now noticing his other traits. He’s displayed an improved ability to finish, a keen eye for the right pass (and the ability to make it), as well as a high work rate on the defensive side of the ball. Cowell has a long way to go in his career, and the coaches are working to make sure he keeps his head on straight, but he’s undoubtedly a rare case of natural talent and unbridled work ethic.
Oh, and he’s been nominated for MLS Player of the Week twice in seven career starts, becoming the third-youngest player in league history to win the award.
2. Cristian Espinoza wants more goals
The only criticism around Cristian Espinoza, if anything, is that he doesn’t score enough. In 56 career appearances to date, Espinoza has six goals and a staggering 23 assists. He has looked his usual self thus far in 2021, creating chances left and right and causing havoc among defenders. He scored a beautiful goal in Week 2 vs. FC Dallas and was kept off the scoreboard vs. D.C. United by a last-ditch clearance after dribbling around the keeper. The good news is that Espinoza continues to find himself in dangerous positions and you can sense that goals will come in bunches for him this year.
3. Jackson Yueill just keeps getting better and better
Jackson Yueill started as a thin central midfielder that could hit a pass. Then he added physical strength to boss the midfield. Then he added the ability to tidily dribble himself out of trouble. Now he’s scoring goals.
With two goals on Saturday, one of which was a nominee for Goal of the Week, Yueill was named to the MLS Team of the Week. He also ran 7.62 miles that game, most by any player league wide in Week 3. His continued growth and maturity year after year is remarkable.
4. Chofis has adapted quickly
Many players entering Major League Soccer struggle right off the bat as there’s a learning curve to the league’s physical demands. Chofis didn’t have his best game in Week 1 at Houston but has played an important role in each of the Quakes’ consecutive victories.
It’s not hard to see why he was considered a rare talent when coming up the ranks at Chivas. He’s incredibly comfortable on the ball, has the flair to wow the fans, and can play the key pass to open a defense. He also scored a great goal in the first minute last week vs. D.C.
Chofis will likely get better and better as the season goes on as he returns to full fitness after significant time without competitive matches in Mexico.
5. Eric Remedi may be even better than advertised
Quakes fans love Judson, and rightfully so. The diminutive Brazilian covers a ton of ground and protects the team’s backline like it was his own family. Unfortunately, he missed the entire preseason while pursuing a Green Card in Brazil.
While it’s unclear who would have started had everyone been on a level playing field, Judson’s absence and subsequent lack of conditioning opened the door for newcomer Eric Remedi to slide in opposite Jackson Yueill. Over the last two weeks, Remedi played like a man who has no intention of giving up his starting spot. Almeyda has also made comments publicly about how much he likes Yueill and Remedi together and how they complement one another.
Regardless of who starts from week-to-week, the team’s three-headed monster at central midfield provides strong depth at a position the team had little of in recent years. And there are a million things worse than seeing Judson running in off the bench to help hold a late lead.
The Earthquakes face Real Salt Lake on Friday, May 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium. The match kicks off a 6:30 pm PT and will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports app, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF, before airing on NBC Sports Bay Area via tape delay at 10:30 pm.