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SAN JOSE, Calif.
7 pm PT (KLDT-55)
It's the penultimate home game of the year for the San Jose Earthquakes, who are trying to achieve something never before done in MLS history - going unbeaten at home through an entire campaign. But there's an even bigger prize on offer Saturday night: the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, with a win or a tie against FC Dallas. The visiting Hoops come in after putting an end to their 10-game winless run with a pair of victories, now starting on a three-game tour of California that will include the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final against the Los Angeles Galaxy next Wednesday, as they aim for the second honor in club history.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Ricardo Valenzuela
MLS Career: 12 games; FC/gm: 31.5; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 1; pens: 7
Games involving Earthquakes: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 29.0; Y/gm: 5.0; R: 0; pens: 0
Games involving FC Dallas: P2 W1 L1 T0; FC/gm: 36.0; Y/gm: 4.5; R: 0; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: MF Brad Davis (L groin strain);DF Craig Waibel (R knee torn ACL/LCL); DF Troy Dayak (L knee torn ACL); QUESTIONABLE: DF Kelly Gray (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Danny Califf (concussion) ... FC DALLAS - OUT: GK Jeff Cassar (R shoulder separation); FW Eddie Johnson (R toe stress-related injury); MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee surgery); MF Oscar Pareja (back); FW Carlos Ruiz (R hamstring strain)
WARNINGS: SJ: Brad Davis (18 CP), Ricardo Clark (16 CP); Eddie Robinson (20 CP) ... DAL: Clarence Goodson (8 add'l); Ronnie O'Brien (19 CP); Simo Valakari (10 CP in 2 gms)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
The Western Conference rivals come together for the fourth and final time in league play this season, their second match at Spartan Stadium.
ALL-TIME (35 meetings): Earthquakes 19 wins (4 shootout), 62 goals ... FC Dallas 13 wins (3 shootout), 39 goals ... 3 draws
IN SAN JOSE: (17 meetings): Earthquakes 11 wins (4 shootout), 34 goals ... FC Dallas 5 wins (2 shootout), 15 goals ... 1 draw
The teams have played to a pair of draws this year, a scoreless draw in the first meeting in San Jose, then another one in their next meeting in Dallas, before the Quakes claimed a 2-0 victory at Pizza Hut Park just three weeks ago.
In the first meeting, the teams played to a bizarre, injury-hit scoreless draw in their first meeting, May 14 at Spartan Stadium. The home side saw center back Troy Dayak, forward Brian Ching and midfielder Brian Mullan all forced to leave through injury, while FC Dallas had influential midfielder Richard Mulrooney and left back David Wagenfuhr also injured over the course of the match. In training leading up to the match, Quakes fullback Craig Waibel was also lost for the season to injury.
Quality chances were few and far between, but FC Dallas goalkeeper Scott Garlick saw more of the two 'keepers, called upon to make a couple of fine saves in short order midway through the second half.
On July 2, in the final MLS match ever at the Cotton Bowl, the Earthquakes twice immediately answered FC Dallas goals as the teams played to a 2-2 draw.
With the full three points guaranteeing Clarke would coach the MLS All-Star team, Arturo Alvarez gave the Hoops a dream start, getting onto the end of a pinpoint Bobby Rhine cross and neatly side-footing home from close range after just four minutes.
Yet just two minutes later the Quakes responded, Brian Mullan getting behind the defense as the flag stayed down despite a hint of offside, pulling inside past FCD 'keeper Scott Garlick and driving the ball into the unguarded goal.
The Earthquakes were left a man down after 35 minutes when center back Danny Califf received his second booking of the match, and after the break FC Dallas finally took advantage, Chris Gbandi playing a neat one-two with Alvarez on the left before skipping forward and letting fly with a low drive from the corner of the area that took a deflection or two before settling into the back of the net (57).
Yet the Quakes again responded within just two minutes with the eventual equalizer, Ricardo Clark making a smooth pull-back at the top of the area before turning and hammering a drive past Garlick into the upper right corner of the goal.
The Earthquakes extended their streak to seven league matches without a loss while piling on the frustration for FC Dallas, who saw their streak lengthened to nine league games without a victory, all since the start of July, as San Jose claimed a 2-0 victory on Sept. 3 at Pizza Hut Park.
The Quakes put the game away with two goals in a four-minute span just after the start of the second half. In the 50th minute, Mark Chung latched onto a loose ball on the left and whipped in a pinpoint cross that found an unmarked Ronald Cerritos behind an FCD defense that hadn't completely pulled out, and he easily headed home.
Then Chung slipped the ball to Alejandro Moreno on the edge of the penalty area, and after skipping along the top of the box he drove a low, skimming shot inside Scott Garlick's left-hand post to seal the contest (53).
Here's Clarke's team (4-1-3-2): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Steve Jolley, Greg Vanney, David Wagenfuhr - Simo Valakari (Oscar Pareja 77) - Ronnie O'Brien, Carey Talley (Mark Wilson 54), Ramon Nuñez - Roberto Mina (Arturo Alvarez 63), Eddie Johnson
Here's Kinnear's team (4-4-2): Pat Onstad - Kelly Gray, Danny Califf, Eddie Robinson (Ryan Cochrane 69), Wade Barrett - Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Danny O'Rourke, Mark Chung - Ronald Cerritos (Brian Ching 75), Alejandro Moreno
A year ago, the Earthquakes won two of the four meetings - one at each ground - while the Dallas Burn claimed one (also away from home) with the final encounter a draw.
The Earthquakes claimed a 2-1 win in Dallas on May 15 (Johnson 66 - Donovan 13, Ching 45), but in their next meeting, July 7 at Spartan Stadium, Dallas returned the favor with a 2-1 victory (Corrales 10 - Quill 6, Valakari 89)
an Jose then captured a dominant 3-0 victory at home on Aug. 21 (Corrales 5, own goal 24, Ching 52), then with fourth place in the Western Conference and the final berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs on offer on Oct. 16 at the Cotton Bowl, the Earthquakes escaped with the point they needed thanks to a 2-2 draw, sending Dallas home for the winter (Johnson 12, Pareja 62 - Ching 34, Corrales 36).
Before the Dallas victory in the second game of last year's series, the Earthquakes had won the last seven meetings between the teams - the final two in 2003, all four in the 2004 season series and the opening match last season.
The Earthquakes have won 11 of the last 16 meetings between the clubs (with three draws), dating back to May 23, 2001. The last Dallas home win in the series came on July 13, 2002, four Earthquakes wins and a draw coming since.
Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear vs. DAL: P7 W3 L1 D3 ... Colin Clarke v SJ: P8 W1 L4 T3
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The Earthquakes moved one step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup Playoffs, now two points away from gaining the top seed after beating the Fire to still remain unbeaten at home on the season.
Dwayne De Rosario continued his fine run of form, scoring both goals either side of halftime, and Pat Onstad recorded his 11th shutout of the season, helping his side to a team-record sixth consecutive victory.
The Quakes took a 14th-minute lead courtesy of their Canadian international. Brian Ching's flick-on of a Kelly Gray long ball found De Rosario in stride, and his deft chip over the advancing Zach Thornton eventually settled into the roof of the Fire net for his fifth goal of the season.
The Quakes then doubled their advantage just five minutes into the second half. Ching put Moreno clean through on goal, only for the Venezuelan to be upended by Thornton as tried to round him. Referee Brian Hall immediately pointed to the spot, and De Rosario duly hammered home the resulting penalty for the final scoreline.
Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear made one change to the team that defeated Chivas USA 2-1 with a pair of late goals at the weekend in Carson. Danny Califf was out with a concussion, and so Ryan Cochrane came into central defense in his stead.
Here's Kinnear's team (4-3-1-2): Pat Onstad - Kelly Gray, Ryan Cochrane, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett - Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Mark Chung - Dwayne De Rosario - Brian Ching (Ronald Cerritos 76), Alejandro Moreno
"The guys just continue to play good soccer and that is what is getting results for us. They are confident with each other out there and they always work hard for each other," Kinnear said. "Tonight we came out well and put a lot into the first half and we could have even been up by more than a goal. The players bring that energy right from the start every week."
The San Jose Earthquakes extended their winning streak to six games and stretched their league unbeaten run to 10 games, also remaining undefeated at Spartan Stadium in MLS play with a 2-0 victory against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night. The Quakes now have 56 points from 28 matches, still 14 ahead of second-place FC Dallas and four ahead of New England in the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield signifying the league's best overall record.
With all the Earthquakes success this season, there was a first in the win against the Fire: De Rosario became the first San Jose player to hit for multiple goals in a game this season.
After watching De Rosario score in the first half with a sublime lob over Chicago goalkeeper Zach Thornton, and then seeing Moreno earn a penalty just five minutes into the second half, Kinnear knew the streak was about to come to an end.
"I knew as soon as the whistle was blown that Dwayne was going to run over and get it or wrestle it out of somebody's hands," said Kinnear.
"[De Rosario] is always eager to score," said Kinnear. "But the goals are coming from everywhere. It's kind of a surprising stat considering how many goals we've scored this year. But I'm happy for Dwayne, I think he's having an excellent season."
Right back Kelly Gray made his 100th appearance in a league match - and it came against his former team. Gray was acquired by the Earthquakes from the Fire in mid-June.
"I have a lot of good friends on that team but it is such a good feeling to go out and beat them tonight. Also, to play in my 100th game in a win against my former team is awesome. The team just went out right from the start and played hard for each other and that was the difference again," he said.
For Pat Onstad, it was his 11th shutout of the season, tying the Earthquakes club record set by Joe Cannon. "I will say it again, shutouts are a team stat. It starts with the forwards and goes all the way back to the back four," Onstad said. "Everyone works hard to get behind the ball and close down their space so we make it hard for them to create opportunities. All the guys are just playing great right now."
If there was someone frustrated on the night, it might have been Brian Ching, making his first start since May 14. He saw Thornton deny him three times with stellar saves.
"I felt comfortable out there. Even if I have not been starting, I have been around the team all year, so the guys know the way I play and I know the way that they play," Ching said. "I am just glad that I could get out there and help as much as I could. It felt almost like the beginning of the season again for me."
FC Dallas gained the upper hand in what could be an extended rivalry with the Los Angeles Galaxy over the next month, the teams meeting next Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup Final, once more in league play, and are also currently on course to face each other in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Hoops blew the game open with three goals in the final 11 minutes of the first half. A bizarre own goal gave FC Dallas the lead, right back sending a rolling pass back to goalkeeper Kevin Hartman - who watched with horror as the ball rolled over his boot into the goal (34).
Roberto Mina then scored twice in seven minutes, his second consecutive game with multiple goals. His first had a bit of forture: collecting the ball in the left corner he ran toward goal before shooting from a tight angle. But it took a deflection off defender Pablo Chinchilla, sending Hartman the wrong way for the FCD second.
He then made it 3-0 in the 45th minute with the easiest of finishes. Bobby Rhine sent Ramon Nunez free on the right, and after racing into the area his angled shot was saved by Hartman, but the rebound went only as far as Mina all alone at the edge of the goal area and he tapped into the empty net.
The Galaxy were the recipient of an own goal of their own in the 86th minute, Rhine heading a cross from the right flank straight past FCD 'keeper Scott Garlick. But the Hoops restored the margin in stoppage time through Abe Thompson, who ran onto a wonderfully weighted pass from Ronnie O'Brien before skipping past a defender and firing through Hartman.
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke made one change to the team that defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday at Pizza Hut Park, their first league win in their new home. Simo Valakari returned from a concussion, replacing Carey Talley in the center of midfield.
Here's Clarke's team (4-3-3): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Greg Vanney, David Wagenfuhr - Mark Wilson, Simo Valakari, Ronnie O'Brien - Ramon Nuñez (Carey Talley 61). Roberto Mina (Abe Thompson 84), Arturo Alvarez (Aaron Pitchkolan 77)
"The spirit has always been pretty good. We always had belief, we just weren't getting any results because of some little things," Clarke said. "There wasn't any one reason that things weren't going right so we knew that once we got the first result that things would lift off. This is our home, our home field and it took a while to give it ourselves a home-field advantage, but we're starting to do that."
FC Dallas won for the second consecutive match at home, taking over sole possession of second place in the Western Conference with a 4-1 victory against the Los Angeles in the first of a number of meetings between the teams over the next month or so. FC Dallas now have 42 points from 27 matches, three ahead of the Galaxy (still with two matches in hand), though they still trail West leader San Jose Earthquakes by 14 points.
Mina became the first person in Dallas franchise history to score multiple goals in back-to-back games, quite an accomplishment for a team that has seen the likes of Jason Kreis and Ariel Graziani at forward. The two goals also gives Mina seven on the season, putting him second in team scoring behind Ruiz, who has 11 goals.
"He's a great player and now that he's scoring goals, he's full of confidence so I'm absolutely delighted for him," said FCD coach Colin Clarke. "There is always healthy competition for spots in the team and we have a couple missing at the minute and he's having to do the workload and he's doing a great job. He was fantastic tonight."
Said Mina: "Of course I'm very happy about my performance. I think it's the whole team, not only me. It's good that I've been getting that freedom and hopefully I can keep that up into the playoffs."
The win is the second in a row for the Hoops after a 10-game league winless streak, as they look to gain winning form heading into the playoffs.
"Everybody knows that when we defend as a group, which we've done better the last couple of games, we are going to give ourselves a chance to win games, and the teams in this league that do that are the ones that win games and championships," goalkeeper Scott Garlick said.
The Hoops were also optimistic at what the result would do for the next two - and possibly four - encounters with the Galaxy.
"Psychologically, going into the next two games against (the Galaxy), it's a great big boost for the boys," said midfielder Mark Wilson. "We performed great tonight and it's a fantastic win that sets us up now for the next two or three games."
Simo Valakari made his first appearance in three league games, starting in midfield. He was suspended against D.C. United on Sept. 10, then suffered a concussion in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal which kept him out of the Real Salt Lake match last weekend.
"I haven't played for a while in the league so it was nice to get back out on the field, but it was even nicer to get a result," Valakari said. " ... Being 3-0 up, we knew that they were going to throw everything that they had and put us under pressure, but I thought that we handled it well and it was excellent just to get 3-0 up. We're playing well and scoring goals, but our game comes down to how we defend, so it was a little sad to give a goal away, but that's the game and we'll take the result."
Carlos Ruiz will be out of Saturday's match, after undergoing an MRI examination on his right hamstring on Tuesday. He suffered a strain to the muscle in training on Saturday, and has missed the team's last two games. Ruiz will be evaluated on a game-to-game basis with his availability being determined based upon the improvement in the strained muscle.
In addition, midfielder Oscar Pareja will miss Saturday's game with the Earthquakes because of a back injury. Both Pareja and Ruiz are expected to re-join the club in Los Angeles on Monday in preparation for Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup Final.