Much of the offensive firepower produced by the San Jose Earthquakes this preseason has come from the feet and heads of Adam Jahn and Tommy Thompson.
The two former area high school stars have accounted for six of the team’s 18 goals and combined for five assists in the Earthquakes’ seven mixed-bag exhibition and preseason matches entering Saturday night’s friendly against Republic FC at Bonney Field.
Jahn and Thompson say the offensive fireworks aren’t a complete surprise. They credit playing on loan last season for Republic FC and coach Preki for helping them build confidence and hone the creative side of their games.
Jahn, a former Jesuit star, played in 22 matches for Sacramento and averaged 66 minutes and scored seven goals. The forward started and played 80 minutes in Republic FC’s 2-0 USL championship win over the Harrisburg City Islanders.
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“Playing in Sacramento was an immense help,” said Jahn, the Earthquakes’ offensive leader with five goals and three assists. “I got to play in 22 games that were priceless, whereas if I stayed in San Jose I would have played in zero. It really made me more confident to try new things. Preki was adamant about taking risks, being attacking minded. I learned so much from him.”
Thompson, a forward-midfielder who attended Granite Bay High School, was 18 when he joined Republic FC in July and played nine matches before returning to San Jose and becoming a starter.
“For a young guy to get minutes playing at a high level and under someone with the knowledge of Preki was nothing short of a blessing,” Thompson said. “It was fun to play in Sacramento, then get a chance to come back and make an impact with the Earthquakes.”
While in Sacramento, Thompson also got his first call-up to the men’s U-20 National Team, playing a key role in helping the team qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup starting in late May in New Zealand.
Jahn and Thompson would be the first to put into perspective their preseason performances as well as those of former Republic FC loan players Mike Fucito (three matches) and JJ Koval (four matches). Fucito and Koval have scored two goals each as the Earthquakes have gone 4-1-2.
The majority of San Jose’s goals have come in one-sided wins over the lower-tier Fresno Fuego and Sonoma County Sol and the Earthquakes’ Under-18 Academy team. They have just five goals in their four preseason matches against Major League Soccer teams, though Jahn had both goals in a 3-2 loss Feb. 4 to the Houston Dynamo in Tucson, Ariz.
Jahn and Thompson also are seeing more playing time than some veterans as new coach Dominic Kinnear looks to see who might best fit his system as he tries to elevate the Earthquakes from last year’s last-place Western Conference finish.
San Jose is preparing to play this season in its new 18,000 seat stadium. Some 11,000 season tickets have been sold, so the buzz for the team is similar to what Jahn and Thompson experienced while Sacramento set USL attendance records last season.
“Coming back after the offseason and walking into the locker room for the first time and then on to the new field was surreal,” Thompson said. “I felt like a different player. ... It’s a dream come true, and to be able to do it in San Jose is exciting.”
The only thing that might derail that enthusiasm is a potential players’ work stoppage. The MLS and the MLS Players Union are trying to work out a new collective bargaining agreement before the start of the season in two weeks.
Both sides are still believed to be far apart as the Players Union presses for free agency, a concept to which MLS remains adamantly opposed.
“As players, we’re trying to go about things as if it’s business as usual,” Jahn said. “Hopefully, we can get things resolved so the season can get underway.”
Both are looking forward to playing in Sacramento on Saturday in front of family and friends. Thompson said he is trying to get every ticket he can to try to satisfy the demands of family members.
They also look forward to seeing their old teammates. While Thompson was playing and training with the U-20 team while in World Cup qualifying, Jahn spent most of his offseason living in Land Park and training with his former Republic FC teammates under the watchful eyes of strength and conditioning coach Luke Rayfield.
“It’s going to feel a little weird,” Jahn said. “But we’re all professionals, so we expect a lively, competitive game.”
On Wednesday, the Earthquakes defeated the Fresno Fuego 4-0 in a match closed to the public. Jahn had a header goal and two assists, one that led to a diving header by Thompson, who assisted on a Fucito goal.
Those came against a team that outplayed Republic FC in a 2-2 draw on Feb. 7 in Fresno.
Jahn and Thompson said not to read too much into the results.
“There are just too many variables when you look at two teams that have played a common opponent,” Thompson said. “We know they’ll be ready for us, and the huge crowd alone will make a big difference.”
Added Jahn: “Technically it’s a friendly, but both teams want to win for bragging rights. The stadium will be sold out, the fans will be into it. You can’t ask for more as a player. It’s going to be fun.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.