The Earthquakes will take on Atlanta United FC in Georgia at 4 p.m on Tuesday. Here’s what to know heading into today’s match.
1) The Quakes are riding high.
When Shea Salinas banged one in off the crossbar in the waning moments of Saturday night’s match against the Galaxy for a 2-1 win, you knew you were watching a moment for the team. After a wild week that saw them down Real Salt Lake the previous Saturday, part ways with head coach Dominic Kinnear, appoint technical director Chris Leitch as the new head coach, beat the Sounders 2-1 in US Open Cup play and play their bitter rivals in front of 50,617 at Stanford, the goal from Salinas was the release valve the team, and the fanbase, needed. The Quakes are feeling the momentum right now, and they’ll need that today, entering a match against a dangerous Atlanta team that seemingly scores goals at will and was designed to shed their expansion team label the moment they took the pitch. San Jose will be without many key players today due to international absences for the Gold Cup: no Darwin Ceren, no Marco Urena, no Anibal Godoy, players that had been mainstays in the lineup. That means the central and defensive midfield roles will see a shift, which when going up against the potent Atlanta offense will mean a challenging day.
2) Into the lion’s den.
With some 30,000 season tickets already sold in their inaugural season, Atlanta United have consistently seen crowds of forty five thousand at Bobby Dodd Stadium (they await the completion of construction of their new home, Mercedes Benz Stadium, which they will share with the Falcons) and we could see upwards of 55,000 tonight. Atlanta has been very good at home, posting five wins and two losses, and scoring 17 of their league-leading (tied with Chicago) 35 goals. Their three Designated Players have essentially taken turns starring in each game. Miguel Almiron, of Paraguay, has eight goals and six assists. Josef Martinez, the Venezuelan, has seven goals in just eight appearances. Argentinian Hector Villalba has eight goals and four assists. The scary part is, there are still weapons out there for Atlanta that we’re not talking about. This team can attack, break a back line (and will), and score with distinct furor. When you couple that with what will be a capacity crowd on a national holiday, ever-ready to swig beer in the Georgia heat and humidity, well, the Quakes have their work cut out for them tonight.
3) The San Jose youth movement.
Jackson Yueill, the Quakes first round selection, taken 6th overall in this year’s Major League Soccer Super Draft, has recently made his MLS debut, and first ever MLS start in the Quake’s last three games. He has looked solid, confident, and sees the passing lanes, while playing with a calmness beyond his years. Rookie homegrown talent Nick Lima will be back today, returning from his first MLS red card suspension. Lima has been a mainstay in the starting lineup, and his speed and athleticism have been evident since the moment he stepped onto the pitch. He’ll gamble at times, but has the speed and tenacity to makeup for any of his aggressive plays on defense. Lindo Mfeka, selected 28th overall by San Jose in the 2017 MLS Super Draft, made his MLS debut in the final moments of the Quakes’ win over the Galaxy last Saturday. With Godoy and Ceren out due to international duty, don’t be shocked to see more Mfeka on the field today. Tommy Thompson, the Quakes’ first Homegrown player, in his 4th season in MLS despite being only 21 years old and made great strides this year. He was particularly impressive taking on defenders one on one against LA, and will likely be an impact player against Atlanta today. All these young, talented players could play a role today for San Jose.