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Eastern Conference Championship

Quakes shut out by Crew in Columbus

Brian Ching scored his fifth goal of the year last weekend.

Photo Credit: 
John Todd/MLS/WireImage.com

Columbus Crew stadium hasn't been a particularly comforting place for the Earthquakes to visit since its construction in 1999. Except for two glorious trips in 2001, most every visit to Columbus since 1996 has ended in disappointment for San Jose.

When the Earthquakes take on the Crew on Saturday, May 29 at Columbus Crew Stadium at 4:30 p.m. PT (live on Fox Sports Net, HDNet and 1590 AM KLIV), they will be trying to end nine years of disconcerting results in the Ohio capital. The Quakes own a lifetime record of 3-11 in Columbus, with only one regular season victory there in nine years, a 4-3 win on July 20, 1996. In the second year of Columbus Crew Stadium, San Jose managed to defeat the Crew, 3-1, on Sept. 22, 2001 in the MLS Playoffs, and they earned their third ever victory in Columbus a few weeks later when they defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, in overtime at Crew Stadium to clinch their first MLS Cup championship.

"Columbus is a tough place to play," Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "We know that, and they have a lot of very good players."

While San Jose has traditionally struggled in Columbus, the Quakes journey to the city playing some of their best soccer of the season. San Jose is in the midst of a four-game MLS unbeaten streak and a three-game winning streak including a May 12 exhibition win over Sporting Club de Portugal.

The Quakes have been getting it done with a suddenly energized offense that burst open for five goals on May 8 vs. the MetroStars, four goals vs. Sporting and another four goals in their last match, a 4-2 win on May 22 against Los Angeles.

"I expect the boys to continue to play well out there," said Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Conway, who will make his first MLS start of 2004 on Saturday vs. the Crew. "We have been scoring goals and I think that will continue."

Conway will start in place of 2003 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Pat Onstad, who is with the Canadian National Team for an exhibition match against Wales. San Jose striker Dwayne De Rosario, who exploded for a goal and two assists last weekend against L.A., is also with the Canadian team.

"We knew that we were going to be missing those guys because of national team call-ups," Kinnear said. "We are prepared for that and I think that we have a number of guys who are ready to step up. It is kind of frustrating because Dwayne played so well last week and Pat has been having a great season for us so far, but I am confident in the depth we have on this team."

The Quakes' depth is going to once again be tested in Columbus, as a total of eight players will miss the match, including Onstad and De Rosario. Chris Brown (left ankle sprain), Troy Dayak (upper back strain), Ronnie Ekelund (neck infection), Todd Dunivant (left quadriceps strain), Eddie Robinson (ruptured left hamstring tendon) and Chris Roner (right ankle surgery) are all out for the game.

That will leave Kinnear and the Quakes with a shortened bench, as San Jose will only have four eligible subs on the bench. Kinnear is likely to give second-year player Jamil Walker his first start of the season up front with Brian Ching, while Brian Mullan, Landon Donovan, Richard Mulrooney and Ian Russell will once again patrol the midfield.

"I'm really not sure what I am going to do," Kinnear said about his lineup. "I keep going back and forth with some of the options. The team has been playing so well and I don't want to introduce a lot of changes to the lineup right now."

In front of Conway is likely to once again be Wes Hart, Ryan Cochrane, Jeff Agoos and Ramiro Corrales.

"The back four played pretty well against L.A.," Kinnear said. "I thought in just his second game, Ryan had a strong game."

The Quakes' banged up roster will have to contend with a Columbus team that is likely to be without the injured Erick Scott, and New Zealand National Team call-ups Simon Elliott and Duncan Oughton, but still packs a lot of offensive firepower in players like Jeff Cunningham, Edson Buddle and Kyle Martino.

"Any team that has a guy like Jeff Cunningham on the field is a good team," Conway said. "That guy can score from anywhere on the field, so we have to be careful of him and some of their other attacking players."

Columbus goalkeeper Jon Busch has been a big reason for the Crew's own current four-game unbeaten streak. Busch has given up just two goals in the four games and has made 21 saves.

The Quakes speckled the Los Angeles net with a club record 29 shots last weekend, and will look to continue to apply that kind of pressure to a Columbus defense led by veterans Robin Fraser and Frankie Hejduk and rookie Chad Marshall.

"I was pleased with the way we pressured L.A.," Kinnear said. "We really pressed and attacked them and I am hoping that we can put out that kind of effort for the entire 90 minutes again on Saturday."


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