Heading into the 2019 MLS season, the arrival of new head coach Matias Almeyda promised change for the San Jose Earthquakes. But with four straight losses to start the campaign and a -12 goal differential, it's felt like a continuation of the club's struggles in 2018 when the Earthquakes finished with the league's worst record (4W-21L-9D, 21pts).
Almeyda continues to preach patience as he institutes his new system.
“Simply, I am looking for a style of play and even if they were to score 10 goals, I'd have the same mentality because I like a certain style of soccer,” Almeyda said following a 5-0 home defeat at the hands of LAFC in Week 5.
Notable among his lineup decisions in his first four matches in charge has been the omission of defender Florian Jungwirth, who has not seen the field this season. Meanwhile, last season’s leading scorer Danny Hoesen has been reduced to a substitute role and up-and-coming US national team defender Nick Lima has not played a full 90 minutes in a game and did not see the field in Saturday’s blowout loss.
“I think I have given a lot of time [to specific players] out of respect that I have for the players and now my mind will continue to spin until I have found the team that I have obviously not found.”
Facing a 3-0 halftime deficit in front of a restless Avaya Stadium crowd, Almeyda decided to rock the boat, bringing on Hoesen and US youth international Jackson Yueill at the start of the second half. But the two additions to the lineup were unable to turn the game around or create much more of a presence in the attacking third, despite adding a target forward in Hoesen to play alongside Chris Wondolowski.
"As a coach it is hard to plan subs before a match. As the minutes go by, you start to see what is needed and you look for different characteristics and energies from the players that don't start,” Almeyda said.
It doesn’t get much easier in Week 6 with defending Western Conference Champions Portland Timbers coming to town next week (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in USA; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada). But Almeyda remains determined to stay the course as he instills his system and continues the task of rebuilding the struggling squad.
“My decision to come to San Jose was because it's a long-term plan. I didn't think that today we would be first [place],” Almeyda said. “My project is four years, up until the end.”