SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s a going to be celebration of all things Kasey Keller when the San Jose Earthquakes travel to Seattle on Saturday, as the renowned goalkeeper plays his final regular season game in front of his home fans.
Too bad San Jose are determined to ruin the party.
With the Sounders’ playoff spot assured and the Earthquakes eliminated from contention, there’s no reason for San Jose not to spend Saturday concentrating on feeding balls to Chris Wondolowski – with hopes that he fires them past Keller – as he seeks a second consecutive Golden Boot trophy (10:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“I think he’s done fantastically well to stay in the hunt,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said of Wondolowski, who sits tied atop the MLS leaderboard with Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario with 14 goals. “Because he’s got to a point where he’s right there, with a chance to win it, we’re going to give him every chance to win it, for sure.”
San Jose took a similar tack last year in their final regular-season game. Having already secured their first playoff berth since being reborn in 2008, the Quakes sought out Wondolowski with as many passes as they could generate against the then-Kansas City Wizards.
Wondolowski responded with a 70th-minute strike that pushed him to 18 goals on the year – one ahead of Golden Boot hopeful Edson Buddle – and eventually won him the Boot.
It helps that feeding Wondolowski often leads to more tangible benefits: victories. Wondolowski led the league in game-winning goals last year with nine, and this season he’s tied for second with five other players on four GWGs, one back of front-runner Brek Shea.
Put another way: Wondolowski has been credited with the difference-maker in 65 percent of the Quakes’ 20 regular-season wins over the last two seasons, including their 2-1 victory at New England last week.
“Our last two results are very important to us, as a group, so we’re doing everything we can to win,” Yallop said. “Having Chris on the field, trying to score, is obviously important to the way we do things.”
Yallop confirmed that Jon Busch will return in goal for the Quakes after giving way to rookie David Bingham against the Revs, but captain Ramiro Corrales, who’s been a key performer in the middle of the park during San Jose’s recent resurgence, is out with a sprained right ankle.
It’s a second consecutive game on artificial turf for San Jose, but the team have gone 4-0 on that surface in all competitions this year, a stat that led Yallop to joke the Quakes were going to choose it over real grass for their own stadium.
“It’s a good sign,” Yallop said. “I think that we have good enough soccer players that we can figure it out, whatever surface we’re playing on.”
One thing San Jose haven’t faced, however, is a home crowd of 60,000 people, which is what the Sounders expect to draw Saturday. Yallop said the energy and anticipation are already evident.
“They’re looking forward to it,” Yallop said. “I know there’s no thing that’s going to change our season, but we want to finish with three [consecutive] wins.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.