Know Your Enemy: San Jose Earthquakes - Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

Bandaged & Bruised, TFC Lost to San Jose Last Season - USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the latest installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, the San Jose Earthquakes, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses

Part One was posted earlier today, sifting through their lineup and form

The Tactics

It should come as no surprise that with much of their lineup geared towards having a sizeable presence in the box the San Jose Earthquakes are quite the handful from set-pieces.

Shea Salinas is the primary provider, capable of delivering a quality ball from either foot. And if the big men – Victor Bernardez, Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, etc - don’t get on the end, then sneaky Chris Wondolowski will, as he did on a corner kick against Columbus:


That a finisher of Wondolowski’s quality finds himself repeatedly open is both a credit to his nature and a result of so many other bodies being around that defenders simply lose their marks in the chaos.

Atiba Harris’ goal from this past weekend is a good example of what Toronto will have to avoid. The Dallas defense is so focused on the initial ball that when it falls to Steven Lenhart and on to Harris, they are frozen (the handball shout didn’t help) allowing time for an unchallenged finish:


Watch out for a little pattern they play, where one player will lift the ball high and set it down only once the referee blows the whistle to restart, while another will actually hit the service – not sure whether it is a timing thing, or if it adds an element of surprise, but it is quite a sight and rather effective.

It is not just from set-pieces that the Earthquakes are dangerous; Salinas is equally capable of picking a ball in the run of play, as he did against Chivas, finding Yannick Djalo at the back-post for the only goal of the match:


San Jose can be a very direct side, as Cordell Cato’s goal against Dallas exemplifies – something that may play into TFC’s strength (they are quite adept at winning balls in the air).

A long goal kick from Jon Busch is flicked on by Clarence Goodson for the speedy Cato to race onto and finish past Raul Fernandez.

That is what makes the addition of Djalo such an interesting prospect, with his ability to get on the ball in midfield and make things happen he provides a Plan B, making use of the space conceded in the middle of the park by the bruising forwards pushing back the opponent’s central defenders.

Toronto must carefully balance their preparation for long balls while minimizing the space allowed in the midfield.

And if they do allow too much space, San Jose can make them pay with strikes from distance as well – whether from Khari Stephenson, or Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, who hit this screamer against Dallas on the weekend:


Exploitation

When defending, San Jose has been caught leaving too much space in the midfield themselves, a flaw which Toronto should attempt to exploit.

TFC have looked to move the ball more effectively in recent weeks – picking the final pass has remained a problem; on Saturday, if the potential of Jermain Defoe breaking behind the back-line forces them to drop off, Toronto should look to exploit the space with attempts from range.

Note how Alvaro Saborio and the threat of a cross from wide force the Earthquakes defense onto the back foot, making space for a simple ball into the centre for Kyle Beckerman to finish with a low strike:


That is the sort of move that would greatly benefit Jonathan Osorio, Kyle Bekker, or Dwayne De Rosario, for a shot from outside the box – something not often seen from TFC this season.

In a similar vein, whenever possible Toronto should look to spring quick counters against San Jose. They don’t have a ton of speed in either their back-line or their central midfield and can thus be caught with a quick move forward.

New England won their match at Buck Shaw Stadium from just such a bit of trickery, when Charlie Davies restarted play very quickly, catching San Jose switched off, to play in Lee Nguyen:


Staying sharp from restarts can be pivotal in how a match plays out.

If TFC chooses to attack down the wings, the Earthquakes can be caught a little flat-footed when forced to move horizontally.

Dallas’ Blas Perez found the space for just such a predatory strike when a left-sided throw-in went through the box and was driven back across by Fabian Castillo:


He stepped in front of Ty Harden to get on the end of the cross. Defoe is quite adept at similar quick responses, while good Ol’ Gilberto is due for one, any day now.

They seem to be particularly vulnerable to pace down the attacking left – right-back has been a trouble spot for them this season – as Vancouver, Columbus, and Salt Lake have all exploited that side in crafting goals.

With Alvaro Rey on his way out the door, that role will likely fall to Osorio; though it would be of little surprise if Justin Morrow played a role, flying up that flank against his former team.

Points of Interest

This is the only meeting between the two this season.

The two have met ten times in MLS play with TFC winning two, San Jose four, and the other four ending as draws.

Five of those matches have been played in Toronto – San Jose has won two, while the other three were drawn. TFC have never won at home against San Jose.

San Jose won last season’s meeting in California 2-1, on a late Wondolowski strike after Justin Braun had given TFC an early lead, only for Adam Jahn to level three minutes after half-time.

The Earthquakes are unbeaten against TFC in their last five meetings, including wins in their last two, stretching back to a TFC win in San Jose back in 2010 – on goals from Chad Barrett and a De Rosario brace, with Ramiro Corrales scoring for the Quakes on a pass from Bobby Convey.

There is lot of shared player history between the two clubs with three former TFC players – Ty Harden, Alan Gordon, and Sam Cronin – currently plying their trade for San Jose, while De Rosario and Morrow once suited up for the Quakes. Not to mention assistant coach Nick Dasovic once worked at TFC, briefly taking the helm as interim manager.

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