San Jose head to LA in search of first win at the HDC

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There are 74 days until Halloween, but the San Jose Earthquakes are on the eve of another trip to their own personal house of horrors.

The Quakes flew Friday to Los Angeles in preparation for a Saturday night tilt with the LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), San Jose’s ninth league match at the Home Depot Center since being re-established in 2008.

So far, the new Quakes are 0-5-3 at the HDC, including a particularly uninspired 2-0 loss to Chivas USA on July 6.

“I don’t think a lot of teams win there,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “It’s a tough place to go play. It’s a big field, very slippery. It’s a greasy surface that suits good football teams, and both Chivas and LA try to play the right way and play good stuff.”

While the Quakes’ field at Buck Shaw Stadium has been enlarged since its bandbox-y initial measurements, it’s still smaller than the 120-yard-by-75-yard pitch at the HDC. Quakes defender Jason Hernandez, who spent two seasons with Chivas USA, said the home teams are built and taught to take full advantage of that extra space.

“The teams that play there do a very good job of using the length and the width to their advantage, possessing the ball well and making other teams uncomfortable, making them have to work,” he said. “For us, we’re going to have to do a good job of being compact and pick our times when we’re going to get after the ball and counterattack, go the other way. Because a team like the Galaxy uses the ball really well and they’re going to use every inch of that field.”

Given the situation, it’s likely the Quakes will have to pull back from the high line they’ve been utilizing during their just-ended three-match homestand. That’s natural any time a team goes on the road, but doubly so for this match because of the fact that one mistake can lead to a breakaway for the likes of Landon Donovan.

“When we’re at our place, we want to press the issue, hold a high line and make it difficult for them,” Hernandez said. “Obviously, going on the road, our strategy changes somewhat. I don’t think we’re going to be able to start our defensive line as high as we would like. We have to err against the side of caution, against a good team, especially on a big field.”

Zura to debut?

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena suggested that LA will give ample playing time on Saturday to new signing Robbie Keane. The Irish striker was formally introduced on Friday after joining the side from Tottenham Hotspur.

San Jose still hope to unveil their own addition up front, Ecuadorean Edmundo Zura, although it will depend on travel and conditioning issues.

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes