Quakes Training Update: New Faces Blend In
In the team's only full practice between last Tuesday's Manchester United friendly and Sunday's league matchup in Vancouver, the San Jose Earthquakes tried to work quickly to turn around a listless July and integrate both new signings and long-term absences back into the team.
For Dominic Kinnear, the area of emphasis in the session was obvious: "Eliminating mistakes. Which you're never going to be able to do, but I think bringing them to attention, and really, attention to smaller details, because in the end, it's all little small details during the game, and it leads to big things at the end of the game."
"I think we've had some real good moments, and real poor moments, and obivously you want to have more of the good than the bad...we're in a part of the season now which is important, but we're not helping ourselves with some of the things we're doing on the field...we need to correct those issues."
With a constantly changing set of personnel available to him, Kinnear has been trying different personnel and tactical approaches to get the best possible performance out of his team. One of the noticeable recent trends has been French midfielder Jean-Baptise Pierazzi getting more and more game time.
"He's doing ok. He had a good preseason, his injury put him on the back burner a little bit. He's been ready. Whenever you've asked him to do something he's ready to go. I think he's a good professional; a smart, intelligent player."
New Boys Marc Pelosi and Matheus Silva Get Up To Speed
Silva, an 18-year-old born Brazillian-born player most recently turning out for a high school in the United States, hasn't looked out of place since signing a professional contract with the Quakes, featuring in the Club América and Manchester United friendlies, and even making the trip for the MLS game against the LA Galaxy.
A relative unknown to Quakes fans (and soccer fans generally), he is a left-footer whose preferred position is holding midfield but, since he's listed at 6'2" and 190 pounds, one who physically fits right in even with veteran center-backs in MLS. His high school team, Monteverde Academy (FL) went 18-0-1 his senior year and was rated top squad in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com, a youth soccer specialty site. He gave up a college commitment to Saint Louis University in order to sign a professional deal with the Quakes. Since he did not go through the draft process (nor is subject to another mechanism such as the allocation order), he went through waivers, and was claimed by San Jose.
For Silva, the decision to go pro was an easy one: "I felt like I could. The level that I was playing, I was playing very well. It's been my dream since I was a kid, since I was watching all the big-timers like Donovan, Ronaldo, all those players. So I knew that was what I wanted to do. College was a good opportunitiy but I know I can learn more here"
While other MLS clubs had an opportunity to sign him, Silva is happy that San Jose in particular was his landing place, saying "My dream was to go pro, [whether] MLS or another league. But when I went to San Jose, first time I played with them, I loved it, and I knew that here [was] where I wanted to come."
The other new signing, Marc Pelosi, is hardly a new face on the training pitch, having worked out with the team for several weeks before signing a deal and trained as a visitor in summers past. The Liverpool Academy graduate was made available to the media for the first time since his signing immediately after his Quakes debut against Manchester United.
"After leaving Liverpool I was thinking between Germany, staying in England, or the MLS," said Pelosi of his journey. "I wasn't just saying the Quakes, I was thinking about the MLS and then I decided that I've had enough of England and I'd be happy just staying fit back in the US, getting minutes. San Jose was top of the list, I trained with them for a couple weeks and did really well, and I think it all worked out for the best."
Left-footed like Silva, Pelosi's youth career included quite a lot of positional training at left-back and left-wing. However, in his most recent call-up to the US U-23 National Team, he was deployed in a central role that the player himself believes to be his future. "I think my best position is a number 8," Pelosi said, explaining that the phrase meant a role in between holding and attacking in the center of the park.
While wages, contract terms, and a hometown stadium almost certainly factors in Pelosi's decision, he cited a few less common factors. First, he noted that he had already built chemistry and friendship with Tommy Thompson and Fatai Alashe from their time playing with youth national teams. Second, he stated that the medical support was second-to-none in the states, which would be useful for a player such as Pelosi who endured a gruesome leg injury and 18-month recovery.
Kinnear, asked about his new signings, was impressed with the rapid acclimation, saying "You gotta remember [Silva]'s playing against his buddies in high school three weeks ago and now he's playing against Man U and Club América so it's a quick learning period for him. [Marc] wasn't over-awed by the occasion which I think was nice to see."
Overall, however, Kinnear isn't waiting patiently on long-term projects. "We're looking for players to come and help us."
Cato Welcomed Back, Yet A Wondo-Sized Hole Remains
Midfielder Cordell Cato represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Gold Cup and helped the Soca Warriors to an improbable win of their qualifying group, an instant-classic 4-4 draw against Mexico, and a berth in the quarterfinals. While Panama eventually overcame them at that stage, it took penalties to do so.
Cato was, in general, pleased with the result: "Definitely. I think before the tournament we believed that we could get to the quarterfinals. That was the first goal, and [we were] unlucky not to go further. But for the future it's definitely a positive and we're confident about it."
While Quakes fans are already familiar with his versatility, seeing starts at right-back, right-mid, and left back, Cato's position for Trinidad and Tobago was a free role that appeared to the untrained eye to be that of a central forward. Cato quickly corrected that idea, saying "I actually start all the games on the right side. But with a team where we interchange a lot, I'm everywhere, you know, I get on the ball where there's space. I have the freedom to move around. It worked out in the tournament really well."
Coming off a stellar international tournament and increasingly eye-catching MLS play, Cato doesn't hesitate to answer whether he's ready to step into a starting role with the team: "Of course. I've been ready."
While getting one man back from international duty will certainly be a boon to a Quakes team that has recorded 6 losses in 6 matches in July, team captain Chris Wondolowski will remain away from the team as the US contests the Gold Cup's third place match after a humiliating defeat to Jamaica. The Quakes talisman will only return for next week's home tilt for Portland, bringing back with him leadership, intensity, and the vast majority of San Jose's goals on the year.