San Jose Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda is glad that Los Angeles Football Club will be without “one of the best players in the world” in Carlos Vela this weekend.
The Quakes welcome LAFC to PayPal Park on Saturday sitting three points behind their opponents in a desperate struggle to claim a Western Conference playoff spot.
Los Angeles were beaten 2-1 by Portland Timbers last week and will have to make do without Vela once again as the forward is nursing an injury that has sidelined him for a month.
That is good news for San Jose as they seek back-to-back league victories for the first time since May.
“LAFC have the best player in the league, Vela. He’s actually one of the best players in the world,” Almeyda said. “I would love to coach him one day.”
The Quakes certainly did not lack firepower in their last game as they scored three second-half goals to edge out Austin FC 4-3.
“Honestly, I am surprised in a good way when we score goals in our favor,” Almeyda said. “But there have been too many goals against us, too.
“It’s something in which we have improved, but we went back to making collective and individual mistakes. As I always say, it’s better to correct over a win than over a loss.”
LAFC’s defeat to the Timbers was their first in five games and leaves them one place outside the playoffs with nine games of their regular campaign to go.
“Before every game now, we know they are playoff-type games,” boss Bob Bradley said. “We’re expecting a really tough match. We need to go there with a strong mentality.
“They have the same principles as before but have adapted a bit. Matias has adapted them to his ideas and made them a better team.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
San Jose Earthquakes – Javier Lopez
Lopez, or ‘Chafis’ as he is better known, followed up his hat-trick against Real Salt Lake with a brace against Austin FC last week. He leads the way for goals (10) this term among Quakes players and he is the first player to score five or more goals across a two-game span for the club since Chris Wondolowski in May 2019.
Los Angeles Football Club – Cristian Arango
Vela may be absent but Arango is in superb goalscoring form at the moment with six goals in 602 minutes on the field since making his debut on August 8. The former Millonarios forward has scored in each of his last five matches, though he fired a blank in his only previous encounter with the Quakes last month.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Quakes have won their last three matches against Los Angeles FC, including a 2-1 home win on August 8. LAFC had won the first five meetings between the sides, outscoring San Jose 20-4 in those games.
– There have been seven goals in each of the Earthquakes last two games, a 4-3 win over Austin after a 4-3 loss to Real Salt Lake. It is the ninth time in MLS history that a team has played consecutive games with at least seven goals scored, though no team has played three such games in a row.
– Los Angeles FC’s three-match winning streak ended with a 2-1 defeat in Portland on Sunday. The defeat was LAFC’s 10th loss of the season, the first time the club has recorded double-digit defeats in a single regular season in its MLS history.
– Lopez is the seventh player in the Earthquakes’ history to score multiple goals in consecutive matches.
– Arango has scored in five straight matches (six total goals), the third player to do so this season (Ola Kamara – six straight, Gustavo Bou – five straight). The run equals the second longest goalscoring streak in LAFC history with a Vela run from May-June 2019. Vela also holds the longest streak in team history, scoring in 11 straight matches from August 2019 to March 2020 (regular season only).