Quakes hope defense will match attack

The San Jose Earthquakes have been involved in some high-scoring games in the early part of the 2005 season, so what better way to keep that trend going than a visit to the Meadowlands to take on the MetroStars.

Over the past two seasons, the Earthquakes and MetroStars have been involved in absurdly high-scoring affairs, as the two teams tied 4-4 in New Jersey in 2003 and 5-5 last year in San Jose. What's next?

"Six-six?" joked San Jose forward Dwayne De Rosario. "Hopefully we can get a win instead of a tie. Ties are becoming old these days. We need to get a win under our belt - we deserve a win."

The Quakes have opened the season with three draws in their first five matches, sprinkled around a one-goal win and a one-goal loss. San Jose has still yet to go a game conceding less than two goals, a fact not lost upon right back Craig Waibel.

"We haven't even had a game yet where we've given up just one goal - I have more of the baby steps thought process," said Waibel, asked if his team was getting closer to the form needed to shut teams out. "I think all four of us are making silly mistakes in the back - it just so happens we have different people making the mistakes every week."

In last week's 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake, San Jose was burned by two defensive mistakes. On the first goal, center back Eddie Robinson was called for a penalty for the second consecutive week and on the second, a wayward back header by midfielder Danny O'Rourke was cashed in for a goal by Jason Kreis. Robinson has made it through just one game without incident, as he was issued a red card in San Jose's season-opening 2-2 tie with New England, forcing him to sit out the subsequent match against Chivas USA.

"I'll defend him on the red card - I still to this day don't think that was a red card. And if that's a penalty, especially the one against Kansas City, then you can call five penalties a game," said San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear. "If you take away Eddie's enthusiasm, then you might as well not play him."

The Earthquakes will need to be at their best defensively to shut down reigning league MVP Amado Guevara, who has enjoyed a lot of success in years past against San Jose. After a bit of a slow start, Guevara scored his first three goals of the season last week in a 3-1 win against Colorado.

"Guevara is an all-around, technically excellent player," said Kinnear. "He's deceptively pretty fast - he gets out of tight situations because he's good with the ball but he also has some speed to get away from people."

Guevara is joined in the attack by explosive 18-year-old midfielder Eddie Gaven, who has netted just one assist in the Metros first four matches.

"When he decides to play, he's just amazing. Thank God he's still young because he doesn't decide to play every week," said Waibel, who will likely find himself matched up with Gaven despite missing practice with a strained back earlier in the week.

"Hopefully this week, he's on an off week for me. It's like when I played against guys like (DaMarcus) Beasley - you just pray you catch them on an off week. Get him on an average week and he'll only make me look a little foolish."

With a revamped attack from last season, the Earthquakes nevertheless find themselves near the top of the league with 11 goals in five games (only New England, with 13, has more). However, until San Jose can shore up a defense which ranks ahead of only Chivas USA in goals allowed, it might be difficult for the team to get on a roll.

"We've got a potent team going forward," said center back Troy Dayak. "If we can clean up some of the goals that we've been giving teams - we've been scoring four goals a game and two of them are on ourselves - we'll have a better chance to win some games."

The attack has been sparked by the insertion of De Rosario into the center of midfield. Normally a forward, De Rosario has been outstanding in his new role, scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 victory against Kansas City and, along with Brad Davis, helping set up Brian Ching's goal last week that gave San Jose a brief 1-0 lead.

"I have a real good connection with the forwards right now," said De Rosario. We're showing some good creativity, especially Brad and me. I think we've been doing really well, just a little unfortunate not to come away with a victory last game."

Alejandro Moreno has also added to the attack in his substitute's role, as he netted the tying goal late against Real Salt Lake with a header off a cross from Brian Mullan.

"He's definitely making my job hard," said Kinnear, who did not accompany the Quakes to New Jersey due to an illness in his family. "The thing about Alejandro is that he gets you fouls, he gets under people's skin and the goal was fantastic. It's great to know that if somebody is coming off the field, you're putting in somebody where the level doesn't drop at all."

Danny Kadah is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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