D.C. United vs San Jose Earthquakes 10-09-2010 - Preview
Quakes try to clinch playoff berth against deflated DC
D.C. United (6-18-3 record, 21 points, eighth place in the Eastern Conference) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (11-8-7 record, 40 points, sixth in the Western Conference) at RFK Stadium in Washington.
San Jose are undefeated against DC in regular-season play with a 13-0-6 record.
7:30 p.m. ET; Direct Kick, Matchday Live
Longtime MLS aficionados may find it hard to believe that 14 years have passed since these teams met at Spartan Stadium for the league’s first-ever match in 1996. Only a few faces from that inaugural year still remain with either club, and one of the most notable, Jaime Moreno, is marking his second-to-last United home match on Saturday night.
Moreno has been confined to cameo roles of late and missed last week’s trip to Colorado; however, he still stands a good chance of seeing action in light of his team’s pronounced shorthandedness. DC are missing a host of players due to injury, have three starters away on international duty and – perhaps most notably – must do without rookie phenom Andy Najar due to yellow-card accumulation.
The Earthquakes have also been hard-hit by FIFA callups, with Arturo Alvarez, Ryan Johnson and Cornell Glen unavailable this weekend. But Frank Yallop and his charges will be singularly focused on taking the final steps towards clinching a playoff berth for the first time since their relaunch in 2008. If Kansas City lose to Seattle, San Jose can book their ticket with a win over United.
San Jose Earthquakes
Yallop is going to great lengths to play down his squad’s proximity to the postseason. However, barring a massive turnabout, nearly three years of hard work is set to pay off for the veteran coach who returned to San Jose to build his beloved club back up from scratch after a trying stint at the helm of the LA Galaxy.
Rarely dominant but always competitive, the Quakes have quietly kept pace with the Western Conference pack thanks to an earnest, hard-working style. The addition of Designated Player Geovanni has made them a difficult proposition for whichever higher-seeded team they may meet in the playoffs.
San Jose have lost just once since August and last week’s result, a 0-0 road draw in Columbus, suggested they're prepared for November’s tightly fought battles.
“We’re keeping our heads down, trying to grind out results and get as many points as possible and to maybe catch somebody in front of us before the season’s out,” said veteran center back Jason Hernandez this week. “That’s the mentality you have to have.”
They’re still in last place and the back line is so threadbare that J.P. Rodrigues had to be called in on an emergency loan from Miami FC for defensive cover. But United are still on a high from last weekend’s 1-0 victory in the rarified air of Colorado, an unexpected result that gave players and coaches a major boost at the tail end of a wearisome season.
“Obviously, it doesn’t fix a bad season,” said interim coach Ben Olsen, “but winning [at Colorado] is a very tough thing to do. I think only one other team has done it this year, so there’s something to be proud of in that result.
“I told the guys before the game: These are the games you remember, when you go into a place where no one thinks you can win, the odds are down and you come together as a team and get a result.”
But the Black-and-Red will be shorn of their leading creative force this weekend. Rookie of the Year contender Najar is suspended due to the yellow card he received against the Rapids for delaying a restart – a decision by referee Michael Kennedy that Olsen, biting his tongue noticeably, called “a bit harsh” this week.
Few of his teammates can match the 17-year-old Najar’s impact on the right wing, though newcomer Carlos Varela may benefit in the form of his first-ever United start.
Heroes & villains
Bobby Convey vs. Jordan Graye: The youngest player in MLS history when he joined United in 2000, Convey was one of DC’s original wunderkinds before departing for greener pastures across the Atlantic. On Saturday, he'll look to exploit Graye, another one of this year’s promising United youngsters, on the attacking end of the San Jose left flank.
Stat that makes you go "Hmm"
United are tied with the Houston Dynamo for the league-lead in goals allowed in the final 15 minutes.