There will be an Earthquakes game at Spartan Stadium on Saturday evening, and for the uneducated fans, there might be some confusion when the Quakes take on the Canadian National Team in an exhibition match at 7:00 p.m.
The Quakes will have to match-up against two of their key players, as goalkeeper Pat Onstad and forward Dwayne De Rosario will take the Spartan Stadium field wearing the red Canada jersey facing off against their current teammates. It is a somewhat strange situation compounded by the fact that former Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop, the man who led San Jose to two MLS Cup Championships in three years, will be on the opposite sideline coaching against the Quakes. Yallop will be honored prior to the game for his three magical seasons in San Jose.
"It will be a bit of an emotional night on Saturday," Yallop said about his first visit to Spartan Stadium since the Quakes emotional overtime win against Kansas City in the Western Conference Semifinals on Nov. 15, 2003. "The last time I was here was in the playoffs last year, and those were two of the greatest games [wins vs. Kansas City and Los Angeles] I have ever been involved with. I am looking forward to seeing the fans that were always behind the team while I was here."
Yallop helped the Quakes reach unprecedented heights, and now he is trying to do the same with the Canadian National Team. Saturday's match against the Quakes is their last game before they begin World Cup Qualifying, and Canada features several players who play for top clubs in Europe. However, the main story of the night will be the return of Yallop.
"Obviously, Frank knows us inside and out," Earthquakes midfielder Ronnie Ekelund said. "I don't know if we are going to be able to surprise him, but I know that they are going to come out to play and it is going to be a very difficult game. They are trying to make a good impression. I think it is going to be a lot of fun."
Ekelund, who missed the Quakes' last two MLS games with a neck infection, is expected to play some minutes Saturday against Canada.
"This game comes at a good time for me," Ekelund said. "I will be able to get a good run before we return to league games."
Coming off of last week's 1-0 loss to the Crew in Columbus, the Earthquakes are looking to continue their strong play and get back on the winning side of things in 2004.
"We are playing to win," Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "We know they are going to take it seriously and so are we. We are going to approach this game just like we went into the Sporting Lisbon game [a 4-1 Quakes win on May 12]."
Yallop knows that his team, led by players like Onstad and De Rosario are going to have a tough match-up with an Earthquakes team that always plays well at Spartan Stadium.
"I think the Earthquakes are playing well right now," Yallop said. "They had a bit of a slow start, but Dom really has them going again. The game against L.A. two weeks ago was one of the best performances they have had, including the three years that Dom and I were here together. I think they were a little unlucky in Columbus not to get a result."
While the Quakes are excited about the prospect of seeing their old coach, they know that this is a game where they can work on improving themselves for MLS play.
"I'm excited about it," Earthquakes defender Craig Waibel said. "This is such a great opportunity, because if you are going to have an exhibition game, then you want it to be against the best, against a country's national team. It is just going to be an honor to play against Frank, someone who has meant so much to this team and who already has such a coaching legacy. I am looking forward to the game and I know they are too. This is their last match before World Cup Qualifying, so it is going to be a good one."