The Pioneer

SJ Earthquakes host open scrimmage featuring new signings

Christian Martinez,
Contributor

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To be considered a professional in any type of sport or job doesn’t mean just getting paid to do what you do, but that you’re also one of the best at what it is that you do. The San Jose Earthquakes are nowhere near short on the amount of professional talent that they have on their roster and it could easily be seen during their Black and Blue scrimmage.

The Quakes held an open practice for season pass holders, which they called the Black and Blue scrimmage on Jan. 27 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. During this open scrimmage the Earthquakes displayed familiar faces like Shea Salinas and Quincy Amarikwa from their current roster while also featuring some new signings like Magnus Eriksson, Gilbert Fuentes and Jacob Akanyirige. This practice scrimmage was held in preparation for the upcoming preseason and regular soccer season.

“There’s no shortage of good players on this team so it’s just going to create an environment that makes us compete day in and day out and fight for spots,” Amarikwa said when asked about the newest signings. “I think we got a lot of great players in that’s going to push a lot of guys on the competitive side of things. I think it’s only going to benefit us moving forward throughout the year.”

The Earthquakes play for the first time at Avaya Stadium in 2018 on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. against affiliate USL team Reno 1868 FC. They then have their season home opener at Avaya Stadium on March 3 at 4:45 p.m. against Minnesota United FC. The last time the two teams faced off at Avaya Stadium, the Quakes won 3-2 and secured their spot in the 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

They held this open practice as a way for fans to see their home team prepare for the season and to show they’re both healthy and ready to take on any challenge that gets in their way of a playoff spot and a shot at the MLS cup. Not only was it for the fans to see the players but fans also got a glimpse of their new head coach Mikael Stahre, who recently signed on as head coach this past November.

The Quakes are also more prepared by bringing in new players to the franchise from other countries and from their own academy youth teams. Magnus Eriksson signed as a designated player for the Quakes in late December from Djurgårdens IF. They also pulled talent from their youth academies by signing the two youngest players to ever sign a professional sports contract, Gilbert Fuentes and Jacob Akanyirige.

“I feel like this is a perfect fit for me because it’s always been my boyhood club and its close to home,” Fuentes responded when asked how he felt about playing for the Earthquakes. “It’s great, its definitely the experience of a lifetime to be able to train with some of your idols growing up.”

The open practice session started at noon while fans were let into Avaya Stadium beforehand and allowed to roam around the stadium. Coaching staff entered the field first to set up warm-up drills for both field players and goalkeepers and were followed afterwards by players who were greeted by the applause of the season pass holders. Once on the field, the players warmed up and started a passing drill that was like a keep away exercise.

The main exercise that was announced for season pass holders was a round-robin styled scrimmage with the team being split into three separate teams and having to play one another for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time. During this time new head coach Stahre directed players when certain playing situations came up and how they should approach those situations in a real game way.

“He’s getting a feel for the players, the mentality of the guys, kinda how the league works. I like his approach so far, he’s making sure he’s assessing everything he has available before making any big decisions,” Amarikwa replied after being asked his opinion of how Stahre is approaching his new position and how he approaches the game.

Eriksson netted the first goal of the exercise with only a few more goals to be scored during the rest of the exercise because not only were the players training hard as teams against each other but the competitiveness and expectations that each team had of each other was clearly visible.

All throughout the exercise teammates made runs up and down the sidelines opening either themselves for a pass or pulling a defender out of the way to open up a path to another teammate to try and create a scoring opportunity. The physical contact between teammates when fighting for possession of the ball was incredible because even though it was an exercise, the Quakes players clearly took it as serious as a match with everything on the line.

Once everything was over the players huddled in the middle of the field where Stahre spoke to them about the days training session and they left to the locker room. The players came out after to greet fans who stayed until the very end and host a signing and Q&A session.

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