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The Inside Look: Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes with Center Line Soccer

RSL hosts a very good San Jose so we asked a friend a few questions about the team

MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a Friday night game for Real Salt Lake as they host a surprisingly dangerous San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes are second in the west on six points, with two wins and one loss, but are head of RSL on goal difference. We reached out to Alicia Rodriguez of Center Line Soccer to get some more insight into San Jose.

What major moves did San Jose make this offseason? They have had a strong start, do you expect that they’ll finish higher in the standings than they did in 2020?

San Jose entered the offseason promising big changes and they haven’t yet really come through in the way I think even they expected. They’ve signed two players who you would expect to start or compete to start, in attacker Eduardo “Chofís” Lopez and fullback Luciano Abecasis. Chofís scored his first goal for the club last week and seems to be finding his footing, which is pretty important since he’s definitely the “big name” addition so far to the team. I do expect the club to sign more players over the next few months, and with two Designated Player slots open they could hopefully find some game changers.

On the second question, I think it’s really hard to say if the Quakes will finish higher than they did last year, but there’s certainly the expectation they’re aiming for that. They had an eight-game losing streak in the regular season last year that nearly sunk their campaign, so if they can avoid another mega-slump, that should help a lot. Still, they still have a general talent deficit compared to most opponents in MLS, but they are a fantastically drilled team and there does appear to be some growth to begin the current season, which is certainly promising.

After losing their first game of the season to the Dynamo, the Earthquakes have really turned on the scoring. What changed that allowed them to find that success?

Head coach Matias Almeyda has said more than once that he felt his team struggled in the opening game in large part because they didn’t get to play many games in preseason. They played two local USL Championship teams and that was it, and Almeyda missed a good chunk of preseason due to the death of his father. They nearly came back on opening day to draw Houston, only for Chris Wondolowski to uncharacteristically miss the goal on a wide-open chance that would have made it 2-2 in the dying moments, so they weren’t that far off from a result in the end.

But they have definitely turned up the intensity the past two weeks and found an actual rhythm in attack. Cade Cowell has been phenomenal, and Jackson Yueill is coming off a brace against D.C. United, which is pretty unexpected from the deep-lying midfielder. I still think Cristian Espinoza and Chofís are working on hitting peak form, so there’s room for improvement, too, and the likes of Andy Rios and Wondolowski haven’t contributed much yet this season. If Cowell and Chofís become reliably productive this season, then that should help the team tremendously — they struggled badly to find goals last year, so any kind of consistency, even by committee, will make the Earthquakes far more threatening game to game.

Cade Cowell has been one of the most exciting young players in MLS this season and just won Player of the Week – what makes him such a special player?

I mean, have you seen him?! But seriously, he’s 17, been a pro since he was 15 and after a 2020 season in which he saw a fair amount of playing time, he’s finding production to go with his promise. I’ve been impressed with not only his goals this season, which have been impressive, no question, but also his developing playmaking skills. All told, he’s had a direct goals in five goals this season, tied with Chicharito for most in MLS so far. He’s big, he’s fast, his skills are progressing and he’s now adding the end product. Almeyda is trying to tell the media not to get carried away with the hype, and I totally understand why he’s trying to be paternalistic with a young player, but Cowell is a special player and he could be just scratching the surface before making the move to Europe, if everything goes right for him.

You can read our answers to Center Line Soccer’s questions here.