Fixing defensive woes still the top priority for San Jose Earthquakes, with or without Clarence Goodson

SAN JOSE, Calif. – An optimist could make the argument that the San Jose Earthquakes defense has been the victim of bad luck so many times in 2013 that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem. After all, teams can’t keep striking world-class goals or cashing in every half-chance, right?

Don’t count Quakes interim coach Mark Watson in that group.

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“You don’t really need to look at the individual plays,” Watson said earlier this week. “There’s been some unfortunate goals, there’s been some goals against the run of play, but you just look at the number of goals conceded, and it’s not acceptable. It’s not the number of a team that is really in the mix for a playoff spot. That is the main thing that we have to correct, moving forward.”

The Quakes took a giant step in that direction Friday with the signing of US international center back Clarence Goodson, who is returning Stateside after six years in Scandinavia. San Jose held the 31-year-old’s rights as a result of selecting him in the club’s expansion draft prior to their 2008 rebirth.

But while Goodson should likely help the Quakes in the long term, there are still matches to be played while he competes with the US squad in the Gold Cup – a tournament that could push Goodson’s MLS return as far out as Aug. 4. Watson said Thursday that he’s planning on pairing Victor Bernardez, who missed last weekend’s match with a groin strain picked up on international duty for Honduras, and Jason Hernandez in the middle of his backline when the Quakes host LA Galaxy on Saturday evening (10:30 pm ET; MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week).

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San Jose rank 15th in MLS with a goals-against average of 1.47, and are in search of only their second clean sheet of the year.

“I think we all go into the weekend with the plan and hope of getting a clean sheet,” Hernandez said. “Unfortunately, they’re not coming our way. ... We’ve gotten punished for every mistake and half-mistake of the season thus far. It’s important to continue with the defensive work, week in and week out. Mark has us really concentrating on being difficult to break down, and hopefully that’ll carry over into the weekend.”