What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
Ah, match day! It's been a long week after that loss to Sporting KC, and the tedium, it would seem, is about to end. Nothing, you know, earthshaking, but a solid performance would put that loss to bed in a meaningful way. It's not a match of the same magnitude, certainly, but neither this match nor last match will represent a tectonic shift in our trajectory.
Let's jump headlong into the lineup, shall we?
Nick Rimando, inevitably, will be in goal — but for once, I do have something to say about that. If we opt for a high-line defense to counteract San Jose's attacking influence, his sweeper-keeper skills will undoubtedly be called into action. I know it's easy for me to pass over Nick, or perhaps give him the nod and move on, he is a genuine difference-maker at the back. Expect him to be called into action to sweep things up.
Our defensive line — again, I'm expecting an unchanged lineup there — of Beltran, Borchers, Olave and Wingert seems likely our best option. While I would quite like to see more of Terukazu Tanaka, there's no way I'd expect him to get ahead of Tony Beltran right now — or Chris Wingert, for that matter. While it seems intuitive that our midfield is the key to our system, the full backs are what make it work, what make it tick. They provide vital pressure in the defensive phase, while in the attacking phase, they provide wide outlets for our box-to-box midfielders. Whether Kreis opts to pinch in the full backs a bit or to play a high line, venturing full backs will be necessary to break down what will surely be a resolute defense.
The midfield is the epicenter of our lineup questions, to my mind. We'll no doubt start Kyle Beckerman in his holding spot, and assuming there's no fitness issue — he's certainly not on the list — we'll start Will Johnson. Exactly who they partner will be the interesting part. Of the two guys that are certainly healthy, Sebastian Velasquez still doesn't seem quite ready for a full 90 minutes at this level, Luis Gil has been struggling in recent weeks to impact matches in any particularly meaningful way, and Jonny Steele has yet to solidify a starting spot.
In addition to those three, who are ostensibly competing for minutes, Enzo Martinez has been removed from the injury list, while Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales are listed as questionable. If neither of the latter two travel, I wouldn't be surprised to see somebody like Enzo on the trip — we're light on bodies, and if he can travel and gain some valuable experience on the road, why not? It's a bit of mindless speculation, though, is all, but regardless, it would be interesting to see how he is progressing.
Up front, I'd be surprised if our preferred pairing didn't get the start — our strike-slip pairing, if you will, where Saborio stays rather centrally and Espindola darts around the flanks and inside the box. Saborio and Espindola are, I'd imagine, set to continue, as there's no worry about fitness at this point, and while their respective forms are a bit off, improved performances from the midfield should see the pair combining as they have at the best of times.
The pieces are all there, but how we arrange them will play into our result in no small way: Do we continue with the same lineup that lost to Sporting KC? They should be playing more in the middle of the park rather than on the flanks — if they do, we'll be better off for it. We can't afford to lose another match in the midfield, even if we're still playing a slightly weakened lineup.
If I'm to be bold, I'm going to suggest we go into this match with the same lineup as last week but a markedly different approach. I do think the Sporting KC match was a bit of a one-off — we took our centralized passing game out of contention and set out to play significantly differently than you'd expect us to under any other circumstance. As we won't have to worry so heavily about whether we're surrendering the flanks or not, I'm expecting we'll be back to our normal selves today. With a bit of luck and a lot of skill, we'll bounce right back to our winning ways.
The lineup prediction, if you're too bothered to read my rambling nonsense: Rimando, Beltran, BORLAVE, Wingert, Beckerman, Johnson, Velasquez, Gil, Saborio, Espindola. I can't fault the squad for the loss, and if they can shake the crust off after last week and avoid an aftershock, things should look considerably better.
Come on you Claret and Cobalt!
P.S. My apologies for any earthquake-related puns. Not sincere apologies, mind, but apologies nonetheless.