Frustration, blame evident in San Jose Earthquakes locker room

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Three days after giving a very public display of apparent turmoil, the San Jose Earthquakes proved adept at closing ranks on Tuesday.

In the wake of a sideline dust-up between coach Mikael Stahre and midfielder Fatai Alashe – broadcast in high definition during the Quakes’ 2-0 loss at Montreal on Saturday – some of San Jose’s most veteran players tried to defuse the situation, insisting that the club remains unified despite such scenes – and a distinct lack of wins.

“Obviously, it’s tough, and now it’s on TV,” Quakes striker Danny Hoesen, a veteran of Champions League play in Europe, told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “But, believe me, I’ve been in many, many places where there’s been fights every day in training and a lot of worse things. When things aren’t going well, people get frustrated. … I think it’s the same in any job; if things aren’t going well, then emotions sometimes come along and sometimes there’s friction. But it’s nothing to worry about.”

At 2-11-6 and riding a 10-match winless streak, things definitely are not going well, as Hoesen puts it. But Stahre – who received a vote of confidence from general manager Jesse Fioranelli in an interview published by the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday – insisted that his relationship with Alashe was fine and that he wouldn’t have done anything differently in terms of his substitutions against the Impact. Alashe originally came on late in the first half to replace Anibal Godoy, then was removed himself immediately before the second-half kickoff due to what the team said was a groin injury sustained moments before halftime.

“Godoy asked to be subbed out a couple of times,” Stahre told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course we tried to keep him on the field during the first 45 minutes. After the fourth time, then we were forced to change. Then we went to the locker room and prepared technical things from the second half. We were really united and we felt that we can change this game, we can fix this game. Then, just before I went out of the locker room – I was alone in the locker room at that point – they called that we have to change [from Alashe]. So I told him you have to give us just a few minutes to prepare, so he was aware of that.”

Alashe was unavailable for comment Tuesday. The 24-year-old did not train with the team; a spokesperson said Alashe had already undergone treatment for his groin injury and left the Avaya Stadium complex.

As a rookie in 2015, Alashe immediately stepped into then-coach Dominic Kinnear’s starting lineup after being selected fourth overall, but his playing time dwindled last year under Chris Leitch towards the end of 2017. The Mercury News report indicated that Alashe has been the subject of trade talks in recent weeks.

“I have no problem with him at all,” Stahre said of Alashe. “I think he’s a good guy, a professional guy. I think he’s had some really good games this season, especially the LA Galaxy game at Stanford, he performed really well. He was frustrated at getting injured.”

The striking optics of the exchange between Alashe and Stahre prompted a strong reaction on social media, which in turn led Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski to respond on Twitter:

So, Wondolowski was asked, who should be blamed?

“There’s a lot of blame to go around,” Wondolowski said. “I just thought at that moment, it was especially directed at a specific analyst who said that it was on purpose and naming Mikael, said it was on purpose and sending a message. I was there, I know that was not the case. I know Mikael, I know the situation, I know that was not the case. I do believe that there are others to blame and it’s not Mikael. I just didn’t think it was fair that he’s made out to be the scapegoat, in that sense.”