SAN JOSE, Calif. – There is nothing the San Jose Earthquakes can do on Sunday to improve their current placement in the MLS standings. A friendly against Manchester United carries no weight with regard to improving San Jose’s league-worst mark of 0.63 points per game.
Nevertheless, Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski is hoping to find something more elemental against the likes of Juan Mata and Anthony Martial – something that could help San Jose snap their string of 10 consecutive winless matches in MLS play.
“I think it’s going to be fun, where hopefully we get to realize we play a game for a living and we get to have an opportunity to play at Levi’s Stadium against Manchester United,” Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “I know I will, and I hope the others relish that opportunity.”
The high-profile nature of the opponent does not change the reality of the Quakes’ schedule, which features home matches against Seattle on Wednesday and Real Salt Lake just three days after that. The compressed timeframe will make this a delicate juggling act for coach Mikael Stahre.
“We must perform well in that [Manchester United] game but the most important thing is the two [league] games next week,” Stahre told MLSsoccer.com. “We have to handle this upcoming game in a smart way, also give some young players the opportunity to play. … We must give more players the chance to play and reduce the load.”
Leading scorer Danny Hoesen put it more bluntly: “I think the most important thing for this game is just to stay healthy. Seeing well-known players, it’s always nice to play against, but I think the main focus should be to stay healthy.”
The match could mark a San Jose debut for new signing Guram Kashia, who is expected to help solidify a backline that has allowed 39 goals in just 19 MLS games this year. The Georgia national team captain has been training this week after arriving from Dutch side Vitesse.
“He’s been out of games for a month or so, so we have to evaluate him,” Stahre said of Kashia. “He looks quite sharp already here, so we’ll see. But we have to be smart with him. We can’t just throw him in there.”
Some fans will be disappointed by the absence of World Cup winner Paul Pogba, along with a raft of other players who are getting a break after their Russia sojourn. For Hoesen, he was excited to see fellow countryman Daley Blind, but the Netherlands international rejoined Ajax on Tuesday.
The situation could provide a springboard for San Jose to recover some confidence before heading back into the league fray.
“It’s good to kind of reflect for a second, but at the same time, I know myself and others want to get on the field and try to rectify our mistakes and rectify the situation,” Wondolowski said. “It can’t be done in one game, but it takes one game at a time.”