Toluca vs. San Jose Earthquakes | CONCACAF Champions League Match Preview

Deportivo Toluca FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Estadio Nemesio Díez, Toluca, Mexico
CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, second leg
March 19, 2014; 8 pm ET/5 pm PT (Fox Sports 2, Univision Deportes)

A draw at home against a team with the quality of Toluca usually isn’t something a team hangs its head about, but the San Jose Earthquakes are certainly ruing the litany of missed chances as they prepare for the return leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, and the situation is now amplified by a perfect early-season storm of injuries and suspension.

To start, Saturday night hero Víctor Bernárdez is suspended for caution accumulation after picking up a yellow card in the first leg of the series. His nominal partner in the center of defense, Clarence Goodson, missed the first leg through the same type of suspension and his status for the game was described by head coach Mark Watson as “unlikely” to play vs. Toluca with a calf muscle strain picked up in training.  The same descriptor went starting left back Jordan Stewart, while right back Brandon Barklage described his status for Wednesday’s game as “50-50.” Andreas Görlitz, the club’s other newly signed right back, figures to miss out as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

The next man up at center back, veteran Jason Hernandez, picked up aleft thigh muscle strain in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake and could miss out as well.

This leaves rookie Joe Sofia as the only certainty as far as good health goes in the center of the backline. The Quakes could opt for a 3-5-2 look, as they have when chasing games against Toluca and RSL last week, but will hope Goodson, who made the trip to Mexico, can go alongside Sofia, with Cordell Cato at right back and Shaun Francis at left back.

To add to the difficulty level of the Quakes task, they will be playing at an altitude of 8,812 feet in Toluca – nearly 1,000 feet higher than Mexico City's Estadio Azteca. The team arrived in Mexico early, spending Sunday and Monday night at half the elevation in order to acclimatize before traveling to Toluca on Tuesday evening to get one training session at full altitude before the game.

Toluca, of course, will feel right at home in the confines of their 60-year-old stadium, which hosted matches in both the 1970 and 1986 World Cups. Just like the first leg of the series, expect Paraguayan head coach José Saturnino Cardozo to use a mix of reserves and starters. The front four should provide plenty of problems for the San Jose backline, even if a few key faces will start on the bench, while Alfredo Talavera, a sometime Mexico call-up could be called upon for more heroics in goal if the Quakes get desperate. One more to watch out for on the Diablos Rojos is Brazilian defensive midfielder Wilson Tiago, whose athleticism and stopping ability were crucial in the first leg.


Possible XIs

San Jose (4-4-2): Busch; Cato, Sofia, Goodson, Francis; Harris, Cronin, Pierazzi, Salinas; Lenhart, Wondolowski

Toluca (4-2-3-1): Talavera; Gamboa, Galindo, Dueñas, Trejo; Wilson Tiago; Velasco; Esquivel, Salgueiro, Benítez; Nava


What They’re Saying

“It is a one-off on Wednesday, so anything can happen. We know that we are going to have to defend well and the longer we can keep it at 0-0, the better for us. We have proven time and time again that we can score goals and score goals late so we are feeling good right now.”
– Earthquakes defender Clarence Goodson (SJEarthquakes.com)

“Sometimes three in the back has been effective in getting goals.”
– Earthquakes GM John Doyle hints at a possible solution to the injury bug (San Jose Mercury News)

"We'll take whoever is healthy and go after them. We're always up for challenges and this is just another challenge."
– Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch on the injury crisis (San Jose Mercury News)

“[San Jose] is a team that has very tall players, physically it’s very strong. We have to be attentive to the long ball, which is what they did a lot in the previous match, and they equalized the match on a set piece.”
– Toluca’s Sacramento-born defender Miguel Ángel Ponce (MedioTiempo.com)

“We are working … to not commit fouls around the area, not to gift corner kicks, they are details that we are paying maximum attention to so what happened in the last game doesn’t happen [again].”
– Toluca defender Francisco Gamboa (MedioTiempo.com)


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