Alonso vs. San Jose
© Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW | #SJvMIN

MINNESOTA UNITED at SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Earthquakes Stadium | San Jose, California
03.07.2020 | MLS Week No. 2 | MLS Game No. 2
7:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2020 Records:
SJ: 0-0-1 (0-0-1 at home)
MIN: 1-0-0 (1-0-0 on the road)

On the heels of a season opening 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers, Minnesota United heads to San Jose to face the Earthquakes. It took the Loons some time to grow into the game against the Timbers, but the defense stood tall while the attack found its footing and once it did, it erupted. Kevin Molino scored a brace and Ethan Finlay notched two assists, earning them spots in the MLS Team of the Week, while newcomer Luis Amarilla opened his account in MLS with the game-winning header in the 76th minute. With road results rarely easy to come by in MLS, the focus for MNUFC this week will be starting the game on the front foot and working to break down a San Jose defense known for aggressive pressing in a man-marking scheme.

THE OPPOSITION
Head Coach Matias Almeyda’s Quakes bought into their leader’s defensive philosophy last year, eventually riding the approach to a hot streak mid-season that sputtered down the stretch, leaving San Jose on the outside looking in come playoff time. After falling behind 2-0 at home in their opening game against Toronto FC last week, the Quakes rallied to earn a draw on a stoppage time wonder goal from new addition Oswaldo Alanis. San Jose’s style aims to keep possession and win it back as quickly as possible when the ball turns over, so look for the Loons to work quickly when they have the chance. It’s a gameplan Head Coach Adrian Heath rode to success against the Quakes last season, when MNUFC beat them both at home and on the road by a total of 6-1.

ETHAN FINLAY ON LUIS AMARILLA

“Soccer is a universal language and you start to figure out guys’ movements and where they like the ball and I’ve been able to pick up on a couple things during the preseason, I think same thing with him. His timing of knowing when I’m going to be able to pick my head up, look and be able to deliver a cross. He’s a very smart player, he knows where the space is. If you look at the goal, he makes very, very slight, discreet movements that just pull [Larrys] Mabiala a little bit to the inside, towards the ball, gives himself a little bit of that extra space and allows him to really come on to the ball and really put a powerful header under and squeak it under Steve [Clark’s] body there. It’s those little things that you really can’t teach that he has but I thought we all clicked, to be honest with you. All the front guys, [Kevin Molino], Robin [Lod], there was a lot of moments that I thought, we created that maybe didn’t come off for a goal or for a highlight but we were creating some half chances, some good looks and some good opportunities. Lot of encouraging stuff going forward and we hope to build off it.”
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ADRIAN HEATH ON PLAYING ON THE ROAD

“We know what we’re good at. We have a really good back four, got a really good goalkeeper, good protection in front with Jan [Gregus] and Ozzie [Alonso], and now we've also got the protection in the wider areas. Ethan [Finlay] and Robin [Lod] put a great shift in it on the weekend and you have to do that on the road. You have to, at times, you have to have bed in, it's a bit of a siege mentality at times, and I thought we, when they did have their moments of pressure, I thought we handled it really well.”

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STORYLINES
One vulnerability of man-marking is a simple numbers game. San Jose’s favored formation is a 4-3-3, which means that defensively, their wingers are matched up with the opposing fullbacks while the center forward is left to deal with both opposing centerbacks. Overall, this isn’t a bad trade since on the other end of the field, it allows the Quakes’ centerbacks the ability to step out and double down on threats. But if centerbacks Michael Boxall and Ike Opara are willing to step up and push forward, it can unbalance the man-marking scheme. If no defender steps to them, they can often get an open lane all the way into the opposing box.

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FIRST TOUCHES
Goalkeeper Tyler Miller and forward Aaron Schoenfeld also made their debut appearances for Minnesota last week. Miller made two saves to claim his first win as a Loon, and Schoenfeld entered the game as a substitute in the second half.

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SOUND OF THE LOONS: HARRY POTTER AND THE CORRIDOR OF UNCERTAINTY

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