View from the Booth: Old friends
It was supposed to be match-up of old friends in new places when the Quakes meet the Galaxy in L.A.'s Home Depot Center Saturday night.
While you will see former Earthquake and two-time MLS Cup champion Landon Donovan in a new uniform, what you will not see are the four MLS champion Earthquakes out of uniform altogether. It's the new-look Galaxy against the new-look Quakes this weekend, although it's not quite the New Look that the Quakes were hoping for.
Donovan scored five goals in his first four Galaxy games (all at home and all wins) and then after his fifth game in green and gold - a 2-1 road loss to Real Salt Lake - he complained about what an awful night it was.
He told the Salt Lake newspaper, Deseret News: "That's one of the most bitter and embarrassing losses I have been a part of." After getting no goals or assists and missing a couple of chances, and after the team blew an early 1-0 lead, Donovan suggested it should not have come down to one goal. "We should have been three or four goals ahead at half time. If we think we're the greatest thing in the world because we can win four home games we've got a lesson to learn."
Let's contrast those thoughts with some comments the Quakes made after Saturday's 0-0 game with FC Dallas. After losing Craig Waibel to a serious knee injury in a May 10 scrimmage with Santa Clara University, the Quakes lost three players to serious injuries sustained in the game with Dallas: Troy Dayak (out for year with torn ACL, and because he is planning to retire after the season, he appears to have played his last professional game), Brian Mullan (out four to six weeks minimum with ankle injury) and Brian Ching (out six weeks with a hamstring injury). That's four players who started every game this year. All have at least one championship ring.
"You're losing good players there," Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear understated after the game. "But we have experienced players on this team, so I think that we have some guys who can step right in. Overall I thought we played well [against Dallas] during the game, before and after the injuries."
I guess you could say everybody has their troubles, none bigger than the Earthquakes. No matter how deep a team is (and the Quakes believe they have plenty of depth) you can't lose four starters and not be affected dramatically. However, the team remains optimistic about their chances with the players they have.
"There are a lot of guys on this team who feel they should be on the field," said the veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad. "That's a great attitude to have and when you get your opportunity you have to make the best of it."
Forward Alejandro Moreno is expected to get his first Quakes start and it will come against his former team.
"Alejandro has done a great job coming off the bench," said team captain Wade Barrett. "And we have a lot of good guys who can step in."
Also, guys like Ian Russell, Ryan Cochrane and Ricardo Clark, who moved from his midfield spot to right fullback last week, have good experience in MLS and all three had strong performances last weekend against Dallas.
(This is a good place to pass along our best wishes to Richard Mulrooney, who received a warm welcome in the pre-game introductions at Spartan Stadium, and then suffered an ACL injury in the first half. Talk about new situations - Mulroooney played every minute of every game last year for the Quakes. His first season with Dallas is over, after six-plus games.)
Four San Jose starters in the infirmary, and eleven starters and others firm in their resolve.
"We know L.A. is good at home," Onstad said. "We have the type of team that can keep possession and make them chase rather than us chasing for 90 minutes. If we can do that we'll have some success down there."
The picture is clear. No whining allowed in the big leagues.
As for Donovan, he'll meet and greet his pals before the game Saturday night. And he'll explain to them that he didn't want to leave San Jose, he only wanted to go home to Southern California.
It's the fans he was talking about when he told Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America magazine, "The people who can't see any deeper than me leaving will be idiots and be rude, and that's fine. Their true colors will show."
And if the Quakes and their fans didn't have more important things to worry about, what old friends say in new places might really hurt.
John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.