SAN JOSE, Calif. – When your opponent is on an 0-10-3 run in league play, you break out all the clichés to describe how tough the match is going to be.
That’s why San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski described D.C. United – owners of that 13-game winless streak, and host for the Quakes on Saturday night (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) – as “the most dangerous team out there right now.”
That’s why Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said “when players and teams are up against the wall, they usually fight a lot harder. So we expect a very motivated D.C. United team on Saturday night.”
Leave it to San Jose defender Justin Morrow to cut to the heart of the matter: potential embarrassment.
“If you lose to them, it looks terrible,” Morrow told MLSsoccer.com this week. “No one wants to lose to D.C. That’s how you don’t overlook them. We know what will happen if we lose to them.”
For Watson, there’s a very easy way to avoid being influenced by D.C.’s recent lack of success, which is to simply ignore it.
“We focus on ourselves,” Watson said. “We will look at them and how we play, and what we feel we need to do to beat them, but we will completely focus on ourselves.”
Prior to last weekend, it would have been hard to imagine San Jose overlooking anyone. But in the wake of the Quakes’ first road win of 2013 – a 2-1 decision in the thin air of Colorado – San Jose can legitimately hope to build momentum heading into a critical June 29 California Clasico against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium.
“These players have a great mentality and a lot of belief,” Watson said. “But it’s been a tough first third or half of the season. The players, sometimes they need something like that [win] to get that belief back.”
The Quakes will get some more tangible assets back as well. Winger Marvin Chávez and defender Víctor Bernárdez, both of whom had been on Honduran national team duty, are expected to be available, although Bernárdez suffered “a little injury,” in Watson’s words, while with Los Catrachos.
If he can go 90 minutes, Bernárdez would presumably replace either Nana Attakora or Jason Hernandez as the underpinning of a San Jose defense that looked fairly shaky in the final half-hour against the 10-main Rapids. Even if United have a league-low seven goals to this point, the Quakes’ recipe for building a road winning streak has to still feature defending as the No. 1 priority.
“I think on the road, you’re going to be under pressure at times, and you need to deal with it,” Watson said. “They’re going to have balls in the box, they’re going to have opportunities, but can you stay strong mentally and come through those times when you’re under pressure without conceding goals?"