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Mile High battle awaits Earthquakes

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INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH

DENVER, Colo.

7:30 pm MT (no TV)

Over the first nine years of MLS history these two teams were as tightly matched head-to-head as any two in the league, but this season the San Jose Earthquakes have had the upper hand, grabbing late 1-0 victories in their first two meetings with the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids strengthened their hold on fourth place and the final playoff spot in the West last weekend, while the Earthquakes saw a seven-game unbeaten run come to an end in the third game of their four-game road swing.

REFEREE: Ben Jones. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Richard Heron

MLS Career: 3 games; FC/gm: 32.7; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 1; pens: 1

Games involving Rapids: P1 W0 L0 T1; FC/gm: 26.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 1; pens: 0

Games involving Earthquakes: P1 W0 L0 T1; FC/gm: 28.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 1

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Matt Crawford (R quadriceps strain); FW Josh Elbaum (hernia) ... SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: DF Craig Waibel (R knee torn ACL/LCL); DF Troy Dayak (L knee torn ACL); FW Brian Ching (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Ryan Cochrane (L hip pointer); DF Eddie Robinson (R hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: COL: MF Pablo Mastroeni (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup) ... SJ: MF Brad Davis (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
SUSPENDED: COL: Alain Nkong (21 CP; through July 20) ... SJ: Danny Califf (21 CP; through July 20)
WARNINGS: COL: MF Guy Melamed (18 CP); DF Mike Petke (19 CP) ... SJ: Ricardo Clark (16 CP)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (38 meetings): Rapids 16 wins (2 shootout), 55 goals ... Earthquakes 18 wins (1 shootout), 58 goals ... 4 draws
IN DENVER (19 meetings): Rapids 9 wins (1 shootout), 27 goals ... Earthquakes 8 wins (0 shootout), 21 goals ... 2 draws

• The clubs meet in the third of four scheduled league encounters this season, the second of two in Denver. They will conclude the season series on Aug. 13 in San Jose.

THIS SEASON

• The Earthquakes have taken both meetings this season, both by 1-0 scorelines, once at each ground, and both from last goals.

• The Earthquakes went into Denver on May 25 and came away with their first win in the Mile High City in more than two years as Alejandro Moreno's 78th-minute goal gave San Jose the victory. Dwayne De Rosario found Moreno on the outside near the corner of the area, and he beat newly-acquired defender Mike Petke one-on-one, turning the former D.C. United center back before hitting a low shot that skipped off Petke's foot and through a host of legs, curling inside the far post past Joe Cannon's outstretched dive.

LAST MEETING

• On June 29, it was another late goal that gave the Quakes a 1-0 victory at Spartan Stadium. The Earthquakes also extended their club-record home shutout streak to 506 games with the victory, as both 'keepers did their part to try and ensure neither team would find the back of the net on the night.

• Earthquakes 'keeper Pat Onstad was credited with four saves on the night, a couple of fine stops over the final half-hour. But he had no answer for a long-range looping blast from Jeff Cunningham in the 10th minute - only to see it come back off the base of his right-hand post. Early in the second half, a Ricardo Clark blast caromed off the woodwork for San Jose.

• But two minutes from full time the home side hit home, Brian Mullan and Julian Nash playing a neat one-two on the right before Mullan slipped a through ball to Dwayne De Rosario in the right side of the area. He hammered a drive inside the near post that beat Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon for his second goal of the season.

• Here's Dominic Kinnear's team (4-3-1-2): Pat Onstad - Kelly Gray, Danny Califf, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett - Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Mark Chung - Dwayne De Rosario - Ronald Cerritos, Alejandro Moreno (Julian Nash 83)

• Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-3-2-1): Joe Cannon - Ricky Lewis, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Eric Denton (Wolde Harris 89) - Leo Cullen, Guy Melamed, Kyle Beckerman (Ritchie Kotschau 52) - Alain Nkong (Jean Philippe Peguero 71), Luchi Gonzalez - Jeff Cunningham

HISTORY

• A year ago, each team won once on their home ground, with the final two meetings in the season series a pair of draws.

• The Rapids won by the only goal at Invesco Field on April 24 (Henderson 26), then the Earthquakes returned the favor with a 3-1 victory at home on July 17 (Ching 22, 50; Donovan 55 - Trembly 83).

• The teams then played to scoreless draw in San Jose on Aug. 28, before reaching a 1-1 draw on Oct. 2 in Denver (Peguero 14 - De Rosario 82).

• After nine-plus seasons and 37 meetings, the teams have played to an almost dead-even record, only the Quakes victories in this season providing an edge. They now have two more wins, and have scored three more goals, in the all-time series.

• Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear vs. COL: P6 W3 L1 D2 ... Fernando Clavijo v SJ: P9 W3 L5 T1

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids followed their win on the Fourth of July with a quality road result, coming back to claim a 1-1 draw with the MetroStars on Saturday night at Giants Stadium. The Rapids extended their lead for fourth place in the Western Conference to five points ahead of Real Salt Lake, now with 18 points from 18 matches, though they trail joint second place Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes by 10 points.

• The MetroStars came out of a tepid first half to take a lead shortly after the interval, only to be pegged back in short order by the Rapids as the teams settled for a share of the points.

• Ante Razov took advantage of some good fortune to put the home side ahead after 51 minutes. Amado Guevara saw the ball tackled away right on the edge of the box, but it went right to Razov, and his long-range effort took a slight deflection before sneaking past Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon.

• But the Rapids pulled level just nine minutes later. Ritchie Kotschau whipped in a pinpoint cross from the left touchline and Jeff Cunningham strolled onto the end of it, hammering a first-time volley from the corner of the six under the crossbar for his league-leading ninth goal of the season.

• Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo made one change to the team that came from behind to defeat the Kansas City Wizards 2-1 on Independence Day. Terry Cooke made his first start since April 30 wide on the right in midfield as Jean-Philippe Peguero was suspended.

• Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon - Ricky Lewis, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Ritchie Kotschau -Terry Cooke (Hunter Freeman 89), Leo Cullen (Kyle Beckerman 55), Alain Nkong, Eric Denton -Luchi Gonzalez (Guy Melamed 75) - Jeff Cunningham

• "Definitely the field was something that both teams played the price of. The field was extremely heavy and the grass was long, it was like you were playing in quicksand. Some of the players were cramping up. We were talking about how the fitness is going to be what is going to make a difference."

TEAM NEWS

• With Peguero suspended, Clavijo went with Luchi Gonzalez as an off forward underneath, joined by Alain Nkong pushing forward in the center and with Cunningham essentially as a lone front-runner.

• "We surround ourselves with a lot of numbers. When we play the midfield, our problem is that we don't get deep enough, we don't get forward enough and from that position. The second half was a lot better, we controlled the ball, and we played the ball around," Clavijo said.

• Cunningham hit for his league-leading ninth goal of the season, but he was not among the 18 players selected for the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game on July 30, when the league's stars will take on Premiership side Fulham FC

• "Every time that I think that I am getting closer to knowing a lot of stuff, I learn something new. It is ironic, but then again unfortunately the way they do things. ... He definitely deserves to play in the game," Clavijo said.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

The San Jose Earthquakes saw their unbeaten run snapped at seven games, losing for the first time on their current four-game road swing in a 3-0 D.C. United victory on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. The loss dropped the Quakes back in a tie for second place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Galaxy, both with 28 points from 18 matches, still trailing front-runner FC Dallas by six points.

• The Quakes hadn't lost since May 28 but had no answer for the dynamic duo of Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno as D.C. United rolled to a comprehensive defeat.

• Gomez gave United the lead after 25 minutes when he hammered a skipping drive past Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad from all of 25 yards. Then United doubled their lead shortly after the break with a wonderful goal from Moreno. Josh Gros lifted a cross from the left and Moreno settled it on his thigh with his first touch before volleying home inside the post with his left foot with his second (50).

• The duo then combined to kill off the match on 70 minutes. Freddy Adu knocked the ball to Moreno and continued his run, taking the attention of the entire Earthquakes back line. That allowed Moreno to find Gomez all alone in the heart of the area, and he neatly slid the ball past Onstad for his second goal on the night and eighth of the campaign.

• Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear made two changes to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 2-1 the weekend before, their first league win in Columbus in nearly a decade. Danny Califf, came back from suspension, meaning Wes Hart returned to the substitutes' bench, and Dwayne De Rosario returned from national team duty with Canada, Danny O'Rourke also returning to the bench.

• "I feel like those (goals) came from our breakdowns," said defender Wade Barrett, "us not being as sharp as we should have been. We have done a good job the last few weeks of not giving up goals like that, communicating, and not giving them chances. (Unfortunately) tonight we did not do as good a job. It was not any one player, it was just too many of us not as sharp as we wanted to be tonight."

• Here's Kinnear's team (4-3-1-2): Pat Onstad - Kelly Gray, Danny Califf, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett - Brian Mullan (Wes Hart 70), Ricardo Clark (Danny O'Rourke 75), Mark Chung - Dwayne De Rosario - Ronald Cerritos, Alejandro Moreno (Julian Nash 73)

• "They're a good team, they've got good, attacking players,'' Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. "We were just a little bit inaccurate, we made some mistakes, and they punished us. That's pretty much the story of the game.''

TEAM NEWS

• Earthquakes attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario said he was excited to return to his club after Canadian national team duty in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He did his best to jumpstart the Quakes attack with his tireless work rate and handful of opportunistic runs at goal.

• "I felt good," he said. "I wanted to play and wanted to be involved. I tried to make things change and push up as much as possible to create some chances for the team ... but right when we were starting to push forward they got another goal which made it 2-0. The heads went down (after that), we gave up another goal and that was basically it."

• Wednesday's game will conclude a four-game away spell for the Earthquakes. Over the remainder of the campaign, just five of the Quakes final 13 games will be on the road.

• "It was just an off night for us," Barrett said. "I think you can have nights where one or two guys don't have enough left in the tank - and I think we had too many guys (like that tonight). We were just running on empty tonight. After the last couple of weeks, with the traveling and games, too many of us just had off nights."

• Added De Rosario, who had missed two games while with Canada: "It's definitely difficult, but I am a professional and you have to travel. This is not the first time I have done something like this before. I wanted to play and wanted to be involved. I tried to make things change and push up as much as possible to create some chances for the team. In the end I think everyone was fatigued including myself. It's hard to play under those conditions - wet grass and humidity with those matchups."


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