Going into the preseason I was wondering which pairings were likely to be the most successful for the Earthquakes offense in 2012 – Salinas to Wondo, Chavez to Lenhart, or Dawkins to Güvenışık. I got part way to my answer in the final preseason game in the Portland tournament against Chivas USA - the team produced five goals from five different players. A donut fuelled cross from Shea Salinas, was neatly converted to Chris Wondolowski for the first goal in the 27th minute. In the second half, Ramiro Corrales redirected a corner kick onto the head of Justin Morrow for the second goal. Ramiro, for his second assist, picked out Tressor Moreno for the 80th minute third goal, and just four minutes later, Moreno forwarded the favor giving Sercan Güvenışık his first goal as an Earthquake. Another inaugural goal, this time for rookie Sam Garza was then passed forward by Sercan Güvenışık to close out the game with the fifth and final goal of the afternoon.
While each of these goals was a pleasure to see, I got much more satisfaction from the breadth of effort across the team – goal scorers were also logging assist statistics and vice versa – and the well-stocked midfield of the current roster certainly paid off that day. My only remaining question going into the season is the shallower depth in the defence - especially with preseason injuries to Hernandez and Bernardez, and the prospect of Opara being called away on under-23 duty qualifying for (and hopefully playing in) the 2012 Olympic finals in London.
Meanwhile, off the field, new acquisitions will also enhance the game experience for the rested and ready Quakes fans. On paper, the depth of menu items from the gourmet food trucks in the Epicenter has vastly expanded over last season – and not unlike the Earthquakes roster, there are some experienced veterans and new arrivals to tempt our taste buds. I wonder which gastronomic pairings are likely to be the most successful for the fans as we navigate through the new food and adult beverage choices at Buck Shaw this season.
- Boddingtons Pub Ale – known as Boddingtons Draught Bitter in its British homeland (wistful sigh), is a bitter beer with a smooth, creamy head reminiscent of that on Guinness; it'll give you a beer mustache - "got Boddys?". Boddingtons recommends pairing this beer with “spicy, charred and aromatic dishes”, so paired with the spicy tacos at El Tonayense, it provides an alternative, if more avant garde pairing than the usual Corona.
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – the flagship of the brewery – is defined as a delightful interpretation of a classic amber style, and is a full-bodied, complex ale. Heavily hopped, its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor, pairs particularly well with seafood – an ideal accompaniment to the fish and chips of Sam’s Chowdermobile.
- Stella Artois – given the 9 step (count ‘em) ‘pouring ritual’ for the draught version of this light, crisp and refreshing Belgian pilsner, it’s perhaps as well that we can buy the instant gratification of the bottles supplied at The Buck. Feel free to let out your inner-Brando, and yell “Steelllaaaaa” at the Gourmet Truck Named Desire – for me that’s Chairman Bao, with its richly filled fragrant pork buns.
- Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen - is a true, unfiltered, Bavarian-style wheat (Weizen) beer with the yeast (Hefe) still present. According to the GB web site, this beer is traditionally consumed Sunday morning in Bavaria after church (and sometimes before as well as during) alongside Weisswurst (white veal sausages) and freshly baked Brez'n (pretzels). Why wait until Sunday? Get an early start this Saturday night with a Polish Dog and pretzels for the Buck Shaw concessions stand.
Of course, these are my own current best pairings – myriad combinations are possible, some of which I haven’t even considered yet – let me know your own; we've got the whole season to figure it out. See you all on March 10th for the first kick of the season - I believe Frank Yallop and I are both looking forward to a better depth of choice and fewer injuries.