Five questions Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre will answer during camp
Things have kicked off over at Earthquakes preseason camp. And while there really wasn’t an overlaying message that resonated throughout the facility, perhaps the biggest thing to notice was how much lighter the atmosphere felt.
And it’s safe to say that new head coach Mikael Stahre had something to do with that -- almost like things are already beginning to take the shape of the team’s newest leader.
“For me, it’s really important that I stay humble,” Stahre said. “I’m confident as a coach. But I’m also a little afraid … in a positive way.”
Here are five questions Stahre will look to answer as San Jose’s camp and preseason revs up.
What’s Stahre going to do tactically?
Given that the majority of his coaching experience is in Europe and the timing of his hiring, little is known of Stahre. So the preseason will be an interesting time to observe what he likes to do with his defense and his attack.
On Wednesday, Stahre defaulted to a 4-4-2, a formation Quakes fans are very familiar with. But then he reminded reporters that there were times he’s gone with a 4-5-1 that ends up morphing into a 3-4-3.
“Formation wise, I’m really flexible,” Stahre said. “For me ... it’s like an empty paper. It will be really interesting to follow them [the players] in the preseason.”
What is Chris Wondolowski's role on this team?
Father Time is undefeated – as such, at almost 35-years-old, Chris Wondolowski may be a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer just 12 goals away from MLS immortality but does that matter to Stahre?
After spending some time fielding questions about Wondolowski, one gets the sense that Stahre does value what the captain brings to the table as a leader – he also praised his fitness and quality even at 35 (Wondolowski's birthday is this week). “He’s one of the biggest stars over here, captain of this team. He’ll be really involved.” It seems as though once again, as Wondo goes, so do the Earthquakes.
Who’s up front with Wondolowski?
This is where Stahre’s answers about Wondolowski are interesting as general manger Jesse Fioranelli went out of his way this offseason to get his new head coach younger, potentially-more dynamic scoring resources and thus, it would seem like Wondolowski -- who’s been San Jose’s most dangerous scoring threat forever now -- may be challenged this year.
Back is Danny Hoesen and Vako, and here now as a designated player is Magnus Eriksson (a fellow Swede). As much as fans love Wondolowski, having his role diminished because one or two of the aforementioned footballers gets on a Wondoesque scoring streak may not cause a mutiny like it might have in years past.
This defense is going to improve, right?
Improve being the key word – a more concentrated look at last year’s statistics show the Quakes ranked seventh in goals allowed. Truth is, they'd probably take that again in 2018. Where San Jose struggled – noticeably so – was on the road. They’d lose (second most losses in the Western Conference) and lose ugly.
Stahre’s job then becomes finding a way to improve using a backline whose average age is 25 and a crop of players with younger legs to hold up after long flights into away cities -- footballers like Joel Qwiberg, Francois Affolter, Yeferson Quintana and a healthy Harold Cummings will be key. Spotting the right combination will be Stahre's main objective during camp.
Where do all the young guys fit in?
There was a moment there when Stahre was asked how he goes about managing veterans like Wondolowski as opposed to young players like Homegrown prospect Jacob Akanyirige. His answer was simple: At the end of the day, they’re all footballers.
Answers like that would lead one to believe that youngsters like JT Marcinkowski, Paul Marie and Eric Calvillo will be given a real shot during camp to try and assert themselves. Stahre has some wiggle room here with some roster spots still in flux – so don’t be surprised if Marcinkowski’s, Marie’s and Cavillo’s development is of the hands-on variety.