Courtesy of Diario AS
MLS is back. For San Jose Earthquakes Head Coach Matias Almeyda, he is excited to get back to what he does best: coaching.
The Quakes take on the Seattle Sounders FC on Friday (7/10) at 6pm PDT, in their first match since March 7th when they suffered a home loss to Minnesota FC 5-2, in Group B play that is part of the MLS is Back Tournament where 24 of the 26 teams will be competing in Orlando, Florida that runs from July 8th-August 11th.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic that caused sporting leagues worldwide to pause or cancel their seasons this year, MLS paused its 2020 season just after the second week of play. Now with the tournament, the league’s plan was to incorporate all 26 teams to play with the winner earning a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League Spot.
However, the pandemic has hit two teams awfully hard with players and staff testing positive for the virus, FC Dallas and Nashville FC. Those teams have withdrawn from the tournament and the Groups have been reconfigured the distribution of teams into six equal groups of four.
San Jose was the first team to travel to Orlando to begin a mini-training camp to prepare for the tournament. The reason had nothing to do with testing procedures or any other logistics that comes with staying in a central location for over a long period of time.
“The truth is we arrived earlier so we could train as a team,” said Almeyda speaking to the media via a Zoom video press conference on the eve of his team's first match. “The other teams, in their states, were able to train, we weren’t. I don’t think we gained an advantage by being the first time to arrive. It was out of necessity to be able to train as a team.”
Head coaches are creatures of habit. They rely on their daily routine during a season and when something throws a wrench into their routine, such as a worldwide pandemic, it can be difficult for some coaches to get back their game faces after such a long layoff. However, for the native Argentinian, he’s been chomping at the bit to prepare his team’s return to the pitch.
"I imagined this with a lot of desire, passion and love. I really missed training. I missed the group. I missed being in the San Jose locker room. Having to get ready for this tournament with the difficulties that exist, I take it as personal growth. Because when we found out about this tournament, I haven't stopped thinking and programming how the first minute will be (played) tomorrow,” Almeyda said.
Almeyda, in his second year as the Quakes coach, not only wants his players to be prepared and perform at their best in the tournament but also wants them to appreciate the opportunity of being able to play soccer again and enjoy the family-fun atmosphere that “The City Beautiful” has to offer.
“I told players that this is the place that energy and good vibes shine because this is the place where every child smiles. It's a place of unity with the family. It's where Mickey [Mouse] and Minnie [Mouse] are at. And we have the virtue and the possibility of coming to this place to play football. I told the players to try to convert themselves into those characters and be able to transmit happiness to those who watch football and are going to watch them," said Almeyda.
There have been reports that NBA and WNBA teams have been complaining about the lack of adequate accommodations they have been subjugated to since arriving in Orlando, with food being the biggest complaint, however Almeyda’s experience has been quite the opposite for him and his team.
“We’re at Disney World. We’re at a hotel. They’ve given us good food, we have hot water, we have air conditioning, we have gyms for ourselves, excellent training fields, an excellent organization. And if we look around (on what’s going in the) world, we need to thank God for giving us this possibility,” Almeyda said.
When asked what the fans should expect to see in Friday’s match against Seattle, Almeyda said there will be difficulties in terms of play, maintaining a rhythm because the team had less than two weeks to train before the tournament.
"I think the expectations aren't the way they would be for a normal tournament. There's a reality which is that we trained 12 days as a team before the tournament. The only thing we'll try to do is have a presentable spot,” said Almeyda.
Kickoff can’t come soon enough for Almedya and his team when they head out on the pitch on Friday evening and hopes his players provide a good effort for the fans.
“I know the players will give it their all, we will give it our all. We're very thankful to the organization. We'll try to do everything possible to represent San Jose in the best way possible,” said Almeyda.
January 17, 2023
August 17, 2022