The Earthquakes held practice in San Jose on Wednesday to get ready for the match against the Fire on Saturday. After training in the heat, head coach Dominic Kinnear ended practice with a shooting-and-finishing drill that saw some great shots by Brian Mullan and Chris Brown. After practice, some players stayed to work on free kicks and fitness. The Quakes will depart for Chicago on Thursday, then train at Soldier Field on Friday before this weekend's game.
Arturo Alvarez, Landon Donovan, Dwayne De Rosario and Pat Onstad all missed practice once again while training with their respective national teams for upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches. De Rosario and Onstad will play for the Canadian national team against Belize, while Alvarez will suit up for the U.S. Under-20 national team game against Brazil on Wednesday. Donovan will play for the U.S. National Team in the game against Grenada on Sunday. Alvarez, De Rosario and Onstad will reunite with the Earthquakes in Chicago before their match against the Fire on Saturday.
Ching among top goal scorers
Earthquakes forward Brian Ching is currently one of the most dangerous offensive players in MLS, as he is tied for first in the league in scoring with six goals. As he recovered from an Achilles tendon injury during the first four matches of the season, Ching did not see much playing time. Even though Ching has only started six of the 10 Quakes games in 2004, he is still among the league leaders in scoring after his game-winner last Saturday against the MetroStars.
"It was definitely frustrating at first just to watch and not play as much," said Ching. "But it just fueled the fire for me. Being injured at the beginning helped me to ease into the season, and it obviously ended up working well for me. But I'm just happy that I can contribute and help the team win."
Ching is just one point behind the leaders on the Budweiser Scoring Leaders board with 13 points on his six goals and one assist. Ching's offensive strength has made a huge impact for the Quakes, as the team has only lost one game and achieved a record of 3-1-2 since Ching became a regular starter.
Corrales moved around the field
With so many Earthquakes players either injured or training with their respective national teams, Ramiro Corrales has played all over the field over the past month to fill in the Quakes' lineup. Though Corrales is normally a midfielder, he spent time as a defender from April 24 to May 29.
"I'm happy playing in the midfield," Corrales said. "I like that position a little bit better than defense. But as long as I'm on the field, it doesn't really matter where I play as long as I'm helping out the team."
Corrales will continue to be a key player for the Quakes due to his versatility. With the return to health of Ronnie Ekelund and Todd Dunivant, Corrales could move out to the wing and provide his consistent, steady play. The nine-year MLS veteran gives Kinnear many options.
Quakes follow EURO 2004
With UEFA's EURO 2004 underway, many Earthquakes players have been watching their favorite international teams and players in the European tournament. Some players, like Ching, mainly follow the events of the tournament through highlights, but others are more into the international matches. Ekelund, a native of Denmark, has been following the Danish national team in the tournament. Even though Denmark had only played in one match against Italy as of yet, Ekelund is already excited about the team's play.
"They drew Italy 0-0, but I was still very happy with the result," Ekelund stated. "Everyone thought Denmark played so well that they deserved to win. Denmark vs. Italy ... that's not bad."
Earthquakes midfielder Tighe Dombrowski has enjoyed watching many individual European players in the tournament.
"I'm more a fan of certain players than a specific team," said Dombrowski, "But I like the Dutch team with players such as Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf. I'm just more a fan of the tournament as a whole. It's exciting to watch."
Tighe Dombrowski Q&A
Can you talk a little bit about being a rookie on the Earthquakes? Do you feel like you're fitting in well with the guys?
Tighe Dombrowski: "Yes, they're really great, friendly group of guys. All the older guys have been really helpful in offering me assistance if I need anything, from wondering what to do in my spare time to tips on the playing field. As a new guy on the team, I have to take care of the gear and move goals around at practice, but none of the rookie traditions are too bad."
Describe what it was like to enter and play in your first MLS match against Columbus.
TD: "It was exciting, but at the same time it was a little disappointing because we didn't get the win. But it was good to get out there, and get my feet wet a little bit."
How has playing in exhibition matches with the Quakes helped your playing confidence?
TD: "It's helped me a lot. There's only so much you can gain out of practice; games are where you really get your legs and start to feel comfortable with playing. The exhibitions really helped me to settle in and play with the guys better."
How has it been adjusting to California from Wisconsin?
TD: "It's been an easy transition. There haven't been any downsides to coming out here, except that I came out on my own and had to meet new people. But the weather is great, the people are nice, and there's stuff to do around here, so it's an easy place to get comfortable."
What's been the biggest transition between college and professional soccer?
TD: "Speed of play, basically. Guys think much faster and play a lot faster. But the biggest difference really is how fast the ball moves around."