Thursday, May 22, 2008

Q&A: Dynamo/Earthquakes preview

Our Q&A this week is with Offside-San Jose blogger extraordinaire Melissa. You can check out her excellent game preview here.

Quite simply, everything seems to be aligning for this to be the Orange's third consecutive win. Dynamo has never lost on ESPN Thursday, posting 4-0 scores last year against las chivitas, RBNY and Chicago (to go with a 2-1 win over Colorado). What's more, they're facing a Temblor team that is in seeming disarray on the field (though I have to admit, in what was an otherwise poorly played game last week, if it were not for James Riley's entry in the Worst Brain Freeze ever contest, they would have lost to the Revs only 1-0), has a rash of key injuries and players playing out of position and an expansion side to boot. Add in the whole San Jose history and the stars don't seem to be aligned any better for a big Dynamo road win.

Which of course leaves me very nervous heading into the game. There's no more dangerous animal than a wounded one, and a wounded one playing at home against the team that used to bear their same name in front of what should be a very hostile crowd with all of that history is a dangerous animal indeed. San Jose is likely to be more motivated for this game than any other so far this season (with the possible exception of their home opener). And after all, they are professionals for a reason. Mister3d pointed out (which you will read more about in the post below), that the Quakes 3.0 have indeed shown they have skills and they will be no easy mark. This isn't DC United and Zach Wells for goodness' sakes (Sorry DCU fans, but after last night's goal to Dichio where no fewer than three players had to screw up to make that happen, you get what you deserve. You lose to TFC at home this weekend and you are officially yesterday's news, or at least Soehn is.)

My official prediction, though, is that with all the history, national TV and all, it is Dynamo who will seize the moment more than the new Quakes. I am predicting a 3-1 pasting.

On to the questions and answers:

NUTMEGGED: Toronto did a lot of wheeling and dealing during its inaugural season. San Jose has played it cool and quiet. Is this a wise strategy? Who looks tradable and what player would you like to see in a Quakes kit?

MELISSA: Doyle says he is looking for guys who want to stay in San Jose. My general impression from the GM is, he is thinking more long-term than just this season and would rather sit on the DP slot or allocation money and wait for what he thinks is the right fit. And I get the sense that there's a bit of an emotional attachment here as well since he chose to stay in the Bay Area when the Quakes moved to Houston. I think it shows in some of the trades for former players, especially guys like Ramiro Corrales, who I read somewhere (the San Jose Mercury News?) Doyle has known him since Corrales was twelve years old. Also, a bunch of the guys on the roster are Santa Clara University graduates. I don't think this is purely coincidence. But I do think it's too early to say whether this "strategy" is a bad thing. Also, Center Line Soccer recently reported there will be a steady stream of trialists coming in and out until the next transfer window opens and the Quakes have already filed ten discovery claims. But most importantly, when you take away the angry pundit fans factor, Doyle and Co. actually have a ton of leeway to do all of these things since the new ownership group remains extremely supportive and everything is still on track for getting the soccer specific stadium built in San Jose.

I think Jason Hernandez is the most tradable right now. He's been the most impressive and the most consistent. Also, he's played in every game so far. This is a hard question to answer because of that factor alone.

I would love to see Nate Jaqua in a Quakes kit. I really don't have an explanation why I love that guy, but he was my number one choice to join the expansion team as soon as it was announced. Does Houston still have his rights? I hear he is just hanging out in Oregon now. Maybe he'll get more excited about playing again after he spends some time in Nats camp.

NUTMEGGED: Nate Jaqua? With Dynamo's scoring problems this year, don't be surprised if he winds up back here. Dynamo do indeed have his rights, and the price would likely be higher than it was for Ramiro Corrales.

But in the same vein, how do you reconcile keeping Joe Cannon on an expansion team considering his trade value?

MELISSA: Since SJ just traded Preston Burpo away, this question kind of answers itself. I can't even remember the name of the other goalkeeper guy they signed (ok, I checked the roster... Michael Gustavson). And the fans love Joe. The Quakes might have a riot on their hands if he got traded. I'm completely serious.

NUTMEGGED: Well clearly we asked that question in this e-mail format before Burpo got traded. There's no way San Jose would trade Cannon now. For their sake, I hope Cannon stays healthy!

Back to the questions. Ramiro Corrales has assumed an attacking mid role, not his forte as he is most valuable in a defensive mid linkman role or as a flank defender. Given the current roster, who do you think might better fit that role?

MELISSA: Yikes, this is a tough question. I guess I'd say Ned Grabavoy, when he is having a good day. But the thing about Corrales is, I'm pretty sure he was in the defensive mid role during preseason and early on this season so the attacking mid change is recent. Yes?

NUTMEGGED: Throughout this season, especially after last week in New England, it has been easy to focus on what has gone wrong for San Jose this season. Instead, let's focus on what has gone right. Speak to that. Given that a playoff berth this season is probably unlikely (or is it? What do you think?), what positives have you seen that contribute to San Jose's goal of building a contender for the future? (And Mister3d has this to add: there is no need for the earthquake faithful to worry, the wheels have been sent into motion----San Jose won the Carolina Challenge Cup. The supporters' shield or mls cup is a done deal. See this post.)

MELISSA: I could do the math to figure out the minimum number of points the team needs to make the playoffs but meh. I'm sure someone else will. Maybe in the comments to this post? For the Quakes right now, the big if is consistency. The Colorado game is an example of what went right so the team just needs to figure out how to repeat that performance. This may sound stupid, but I say the number one positive to take from that game is morale. During the Colorado game, the Quakes scored early which definitely set the tempo. The solution may or may not be something that simple but I don't think this is a situation that calls for a ton of specifics or statistics. Ronnie O'Brien is the real offensive spark right now and when he has a good game, the rest of the team does too. Also, when they're down, it takes the guys a good 45 minutes to pick themselves back up again and start creating real chances - which usually leaves them just a handful of minutes before the final whistle to get anything done. So it all seems to be slowly coming together for the team. But we still have terrible aim. We need to fix that asap.

NUTMEGGED: What is the perception of the Houston Dynamo in the Bay Area? Does it rankle the Earthquake faithful that the team has won back-to-back MLS Cups? Is there a sense that those titles rightfully belong in San Jose? Similarly, what kind of reception do you think the team will get there? More hostile than most visitors get or less?

MELISSA: I think a few old-school pundits believe the titles Houston won should belong to San Jose. But most fans don't share that opinion. I think the faithful are just happy the new owners are so supportive and the team gets to keep the old titles. And besides a sort of collective general mental pause over the absurdity of the situation, people don't really think about the connection much anymore. Keep in mind that Quakes fans already got the initial Houston meetup out of their systems during preseason so they'll just be treating the Dynamo like any other MLS team - except The Galaxy. That hatred never went away.

NUTMEGGED: Fair enough, and if Landon Donovan keeps barking, you may have the support of an entire nation behind you! :> And finally, a bonus question: Prediction for the match?

MELISSA: I'm going to remain optimistic and say 0-0.

NUTMEGGED: Thanks Melissa, and we hope you enjoy the game, but not too much, you understand.

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