Pucela 'clash' with San Jose in opening preseason match tonight
In what will be the first ever meeting between these two sides, Real Valladolid face their opening preseason match against the San Jose Earthquakes in the small hours of tonight.
Due to the eight-hour time difference between the UK and the West Coast of the United States, the match will begin at 03:15 (04:15 in Spain) and will be available to view live on the Real Valladolid official club website.
Sergio González has hinted that he will divide the minutes of their opening foray into action between as many of the squad as possible, as is typical during early preseason exchanges. This means it will be a good opportunity for any Pucela fans suffering from insomnia to get their first look at new signings including Fede San Emetorio, Jorge De Frutos, Álvaro Aguado, Sandro, Fede Barba and José Antonio Caro.
It will also be the debut of the new, and controversial, strips for this season. Manufactured by Adidas, the new look has been met with a lukewarm response by fans – mostly due to a much darker shade of purple being chosen over the traditional violet colour. The introduction of red details and a plain white back to the shirt has also drawn criticism from many sections of the support.
Unlikely to feature in the match will be central defenders Fernando Calero and Kiko Olivas, and it has already been confirmed that Anuar – who has spent much of the trip training alone and in the gymnasium – and Pablo Hervías will both be absent from tonight’s encounter.
San Jose have an interesting and chequered history within the American game. The roots of the side can be traced back to the mid-1970s when they started life as an expansion team in the North American Soccer League (NASL). They played there until the NASL folded after the 1984 season. Ten years later, the city of San Jose was awarded one of the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises in 1994. The Earthquakes name was retained by Peter Bridgwater who became General Manager of the franchise who became known at the time as the San Jose Clash, due to the insistence of Nike who were a heavy investor in the early MLS. The Clash competed in the first ever MLS match on April 6th, 1996 as they defeated DC United in front of 31,000 fans at Spartan Stadium, San Jose. However, the follwing years were not kind to the Clash. A period of management instability and poor results ensued. In October 1999, the club adopted the Earthquakes moniker and some personnel changes on and off the field appeared to steady the ship. They beat state rivals LA Galaxy to win the 2001 MLS Cup and repeated the trick against the Chicago Fire to win the title again in 2003. However, trouble was never too far away. The team itself moved to Texas and became the Houston Dynamo, which still exists today, but the identity of the Earthquakes name and logo was retained by the league. The Earthquakes resurfaced in the MLS for the 2008 season.
Currently, tonight’s opponents are managed by the Argentinian Matías Almeyda. Fans of 1990s football will recognise him as having played for a host of top level clubs such as two spells at River Plate in his native country, along with Sevilla in Spain and Lazio, Parma, Inter Milan and Brescia in Italy. He has represented his country 35 times. He was also manager at River from 2011-12. Almeyda brings a wealth of experience to a team with a solid youth academy who are arguably on the rise, despite a last-placed finish in MLS in the previous season.
The ‘Quakes are already well into their Major League Soccer season, having kicked off proceedings in April. They sit fifth in the Western Conference, winning nine of their 20 league matches. However, they have enjoyed a good run of form recently and have lost just three times in their last 12 outings in all competitions. Confidence is running high in the camp as they beat state rivals LA Galaxy 1-3 at the Stubhub Center in Carson City on Saturday in the second “California Clásico” in two weeks. At the end of June, they resoundingly defeated the Galaxy 3-0 in front of 50,000 fans at Stanford Stadium. Seemingly defensively sound, they kept LA’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic - arguably the MLS’s best-known player and prolific striker – without a goal over the course of the two matches.
Two of the Earthquakes dangermen should feature tonight. Striker Chris Wondolowski is a household name in American soccer circles. He joined the side in 2009 and has made 304 appearances, with 148 goals to his name. The 36-year-old is vastly experienced, having represented the United States 35 times, and boasts being the league top-scorer in 2010 and 2012, also winning the Most Valuable Player award in the latter year. He has eight goals in 19 outings so far this campaign. Midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili is the one to watch however. The 26-year-old Georgian may have just the five goals and three assists on paper, but it is his technical ability and influence on a match which has drawn so much interest. He had two man-of-the-match performances in the recent tussles with LA Galaxy and is a joy to watch.