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RSL vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Three Questions with Center Line Soccer

We talked to Nerdy Gales of SB Nation blog Center Line Soccer to get the latest on tonight’s opponent, San Jose Earthquakes.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

1 . Tommy Thompson has appeared 39 times for the Quakes since being signed in 2014. He has been selected for three straight MLS All-Star Homegrown games, and continues to improve his game. What are the fan expectations for Tommy, and do you think he'll reach them?

For a player who still can’t buy a beer, Tommy Thompson has been around the San Jose Earthquakes for a long, long time. I remember seeing him play out of the Academy for the reserves back around 2012 or so. He only played one year of college soccer at Indiana University - five goals and one assist in 12 matches earned him the Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2013 – so the potential has always there.

Since he signed his Homegrown Player contract with the Earthquakes on March 14, 2014, he’s been in and out of the senior side, and commuting up and down I-80 to Sacramento, where he makes appearances with San Jose's USL Pro affiliate club Sacramento Republic FC.

The fans are broadly divided into two camps – the ‘More Tommy Now’ camp that thinks he should be getting more playing time based on his speed and obvious skill juggling the ball, and the ‘Wait for Tommy’ camp that would like to see him develop better finishing skills, and which would guarantee his automatic inclusion into the starting line-up.

It’s important to remember that he’s still only 20, and while the jury’s still out on his current soccer IQ, hopefully some of that should rub off on the youngster by being around the veterans In the squad.

2. As San Jose sits, they are four points under the playoff line in the Western Conference. What chance do they have to reach the playoffs? Is the season a success even if they end up missing the cut?

Fair and no.

Dom Kinnear’s had a rough time of late putting together a healthy squad. Key defender Clarence Goodson is now out for the season after surgery for a bulging disk, and I’ve seen some internet rumors that DP Innocent Emeghara is being courted by Aston Villa (Innocent has been MIA for most of this season for the Quakes – maybe he and Steven Lenhart are surfing in Santa Cruz).

On the bright side, Simon Dawkins is returning to the form that earned him so many fans during his spell here in 2012. His wonder strike as the Quakes were reduced to 9 men in last week’s match against Toronto FC really energized the side and electrified the crowd – and is hopefully the turning point in improving the team’s chances of making the playoffs.

The Quakes haven’t made the playoffs since 2012 – that was two managers ago, and Dom absolutely needs to solidify his position in that role by making sure the Quakes are in the post season mix; that’s the minimum. Any progress in the postseason is gravy.

3. The building of Avaya stadium led to a 29% increase in attendance at Quakes matches in 2015 and also the chance to host the 2016 All Star Game. What else has the new stadium done to improve the fan experience in San Jose?

Cup holders -- beer spillage is way down, and that’s always a good thing. On the down side, the chiropractors of San Jose have noticed a downturn in business, now that the fans are not crammed knee to shoulder blade on the cramped bleachers of Buck Shaw.

Seriously though, after six years wait, it’s very comfortable, open and very blue (save the red seats that spell GO Quakes in binary for the local tech geeks). I find mostly plusses – just one minus that the players are less accessible to regular (non-club seat) fans post game.

The open end of the stadium looks across San Jose airport to the east bay hills, though the view is partially blocked by the Longest Outdoor Bar in North America (a.k.a. LOBINA -- a bar so big it has its own Twitter account) -- and that’s not exactly a bad thing either. The large picnic area behind LOBINA houses various food trucks. Stadium fare is delicious and we have local craft brews and worldwide beers for those cup holders.

At 18,000, the capacity is smaller than many Bay Area sporting venues, but the proximity of the fans to the field is second to none. The fans really raised the roof last week – two red cards (since rescinded) will really do that to a crowd. The players and coaches all remarked on the fan participation, and how it spurred on the Quakes to their improbable success. It rocked – and team president Dave Kaval has the seismograph to prove it.

The only other improvement I can think of is that it would be great to attend a few games at Avaya Stadium in November.