Three ways MLS' San Jose Earthquakes can build upon LAFC upset
San Jose Earthquakes forward Amahl Pellegrino. Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Three ways MLS' San Jose Earthquakes can build upon LAFC upset

The San Jose Earthquakes remain at the bottom of Major League Soccer's Western Conference after stunning Los Angeles FC 3-1 on Saturday, but its victory over the 2022 MLS Cup champions makes it hopeful for the future.

"Football is an easy thing when you have confidence," Earthquakes forward Amahl Pellegrino said per mlssoccer.com. "To get a huge win like this with a good performance makes this easier because you start to believe in what you're doing in training. We just have to continue."

Here are three things San Jose can focus on to continue its momentum:

1. Let Cristian Espinoza cook... and get the right strikers in his path

Espinoza, San Jose's Argentine playmaker, had a brilliant game Saturday, setting up all three of San Jose's goals. He seemed in sync with strikers Pellegrino and Jeremy Ebobisse, lofting gorgeous balls into the penalty area for them and predicting their runs from the middle of the park.

San Jose has experimented with other strikers this season, notably American prospect Preston Judd, but this LAFC game made a strong case for a Pellegrino-Espinoza-Ebobisse pairing in the future. The Quakes may be better off leaving Judd on the bench.

2. Don't sleep on Jack Skahan

We haven't heard much about San Jose's 26-year-old American midfielder Jack Skahan this season, but that should change after his star-making performance against LAFC. Skahan was a threat all game, backing up Pellegrino, Espinoza and Ebobisse in attack and sinking deep to cover his defenders when needed. 

We've seen several Western Conference teams rise and fall on the strength of their midfielders this season (Gaston Brugman of the L.A. Galaxy and Fidel Barajas of Real Salt Lake come to mind.) Skahan has the goods to become San Jose's difference-maker in the middle of the park.

3. Set up to frustrate the opposition

Many MLS teams are militant with their tactics — they like doing what feels good regardless of who they're battling on the field. (See Inter Miami's revived tiki-taka, D.C. United's hard-nosed long balls and FC Dallas' hapless 3-4-3 for reference.) 

San Jose bucked that trend against LAFC with great effect. It studied where its opponent was poor — in this case, defending set pieces — and trained all week to overwhelm LAFC in the box. The results were positive and almost immediate, as San Jose broke through with a set-piece goal just five minutes into the match.

The Earthquakes will aim to continue their MLS resurgence Saturday against the Colorado Rapids in Denver.

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