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‘Unique’ San Jose Earthquakes present a challenge for the Philadelphia Union

“We have to be very disciplined on the day because they have attacking pieces I could talk about for a half hour that can can really hurt you individually and collectively.” -Jim Curtin

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A winless team that’s already conceded six times in two games this season that has to travel 2,800 miles might seem like a recipe for a Philadelphia Union blowout on Saturday at Subaru Park, but head coach Jim Curtin isn’t seeing it that way on the eve of the first match against the San Jose Earthquakes since September 2019.

“It’s a unique opponent and it’s one that we don’t get the luxury of playing too often,” Curtin said in his press conference on Thursday. “One thing that always is true is they always, always create chances and they create opportunities on the offensive side. Sometimes they take a lot of risks, sometimes they leave themselves exposed at the back and they play man for man.They’re a team that when they’re clicking and the talent that they have in the attacking pieces they can be very, very dangerous.”

While going into the season this match was billed as the return of Jamiro Monteiro, his red card against Columbus Crew tore up that storyline but may have also in a weird way lit a fire under his new teammates. Down a man in the 33rd minute after taking an early lead, the Quakes conceded three times but fought back with a pair of Francisco Calvo goals to earn a surprising draw.

“To score two goals down a man you know speaks a lot to them and to get one in the 96th minute it shows you they fight till the final whistle,” Curtin said.

Ordinarily when teams from the West Coast take the long trek to Subaru Park the expectation is for them to sit in and try to play for a draw, but Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda isn’t known for parking the bus.

Slowing the Earthquakes attack and staying organized defensively will be key on Saturday. With Mikael Uhre expected to play a big role after making his debut off the bench in Montreal he could be an important weapon to counter punch with when the Earthquakes take risks going forward.

“The simplest way I can put it is we’re not built to play in this game where it goes end to end and they get a chance we get a chance we’re not we’re not comfortable with that and we want to try to prevent that,” Curtin said. “We have to be very disciplined on the day because they have attacking pieces I could talk about for a half hour that can can really hurt you individually and collectively.”

Chris Wondolowski is no longer on that list of weapons after retiring in the offseason — you may remember he was in with supporters while serving a suspension the last time the two teams met in San Jose in 2019 — but Javier “Chofis” Lopez led the team in goals last season with 12, Cade Cowell is one of the top young attackers in the league and Cristian Espinoza is a constant danger who already has a goal and an assist on the young season. Calvo, the Costa Rican international defender who led the late rally against Columbus, will need to be accounted for on set pieces.

The Union and the Quakes last met on September 25, 2019. The Union came back from an early deficit to win 2-1 on goals from Alejandro Bedoya and Kacper Przybylko. It also tied the all-time series at 4-4-4. The Union were scheduled to host the Earthquakes for their home opener in 2020 but the game was postponed and the season put on hold because of Covid-19.

Saturday’s match is scheduled to kick off at 7:38 p.m. EST and will be broadcast live on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com locally and on ESPN+ for out of market fans. Ilsinho will be honored pre-game and do the honors of banging the team’s new six-foot drum they wheel onto the field during pre-game festivities.