San Jose, Colorado meet for early West positioning

The basics

Colorado Rapids (3-1-1) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (2-2-0).

All-time record: The Earthquakes lead 20-16-8.

What’s at stake?

Colorado want to continue their best start in franchise history and build upon a three-match winning streak (that includes a victory over Kansas City in a U.S. Open Cup play-in). The Rapids have 10 points, their highest total ever after five matches. For San Jose, it’s a bit of a crossroads game: The Quakes have played well in winning on the road at Chicago and beating New England at home, but also lost twice in distressingly similar fashion, giving up far too much of the ball to Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA.

Last meeting

Chris Wondolowski put the Quakes ahead in the 67th minute, driving a shot from the penalty spot past a diving Preston Burpo on Sept. 23, 2009. But the Rapids’ Omar Cummings drew a foul in the box during injury time, and Conor Casey stepped up to notch his 15th goal of the season, luring Joe Cannon into an early dive and then placing it in the other half of the net.

Remember when …

... Casey scored on a penalty to give the Rapids a tie with the Quakes? Sure -- but which time do you mean? San Jose and Colorado played twice in the space of five days last September and each time, Casey converted a PK in second-half injury time to force a tie and salvage a point. “This was déjà vu,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said after the second game. “It was like ‘Groundhog Day.’”

Heroes and villains

Conor Casey vs. Ike Opara or Bobby Burling — Casey is a load for any defense, which is why he’s being talked up as a potential addition to the U.S. World Cup squad when training camp opens up in two weeks. But defending him could become even more difficult if Opara isn’t able to make it back in time from Wake Forest, where he is completing his coursework. If Opara isn’t there, Burling will see his first action of the season.

Pablo Mastroeni vs. Andre Luiz — When Andre Luiz was a late scratch due to a swollen knee last weekend, it put a huge dent in San Jose’s chances of controlling play against Chivas USA. That led to San Jose depending on hopeful long balls more than building up solid attacks. The Brazilian is expected to play Saturday, and his distribution is critical. After scoring in his fourth, eighth and 12th MLS seasons, Mastroeni got ahead of schedule, tallying last week against New England for a goal in his 13th season. Colorado won’t count on his offense, but do need him to break up plays from his spot at defensive center midfield.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm …"

In their last 10 matches against San Jose, Colorado have gone 0-7-3. The Rapids’ last win over the Quakes came on April 24, 2004.

He said it

“When I watched the [Chivas USA] game again two or three times, it’s never as bad as it looks. There’s no need to hit any kind of panic button. Our goal is to stay in arm’s reach of a playoff spot, so we’re not sitting there midway through the year saying, ‘Oh, [heck], we have to win out.’” -- San Jose defender Chris Leitch