SAN JOSE, Calif.
7 pm PT (FSN-NE)
Both teams are looking to get off to good starts - for different reasons - as the new season begins. The San Jose Earthquakes face a little uncertainly in their future - and in their lineup, as Dominic Kinnear looks to rebuild a squad that has seen a number of key players depart. The New England Revolution once again left it late a year ago before missing out on another MLS Cup Final by the narrowest of margins, and while the MLS season is a long one some early wins will certainly help the cause.
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Steven Davidson; 4th: Richard Heron
MLS Career: 7 games; FC/gm: 28.9; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 2; pens: 1
Games involving Earthquakes: P1 W0 L0 T1; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 2; pens: 1
Games involving Revolution: P2 W0 L0 T2; FC/gm: 28.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: DF Danny Califf (R knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: Orlando Ramirez (R groin strain); PROBABLE: Brian Mullan (L ankle sprain) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain); MF Felix Brillant (L ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Carlos Llamosa (R groin strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
HEAD-TO-HEADThis is the first of two meetings between the two clubs this year, the only one on the East Coast. They won't see each other again for a while, meeting in San Jose on Oct. 1.
A year ago, the Earthquakes claimed wins in two of the three meetings - winning both games in Foxborough, while coming back to claim a dramatic draw in the only home encounter.
The Quakes won 3-1 on April 17 at Gillette Stadium in Dominic Kinnear's first victory as a head coach (Twellman 49 - DeRosario 53, Alvarez 55, Ching 75), before a wild 2-2 draw on July 24 at Spartan Stadium. The Revs took a 2-0 lead (Noonan 25, Cancela 54), then after Troy Dayak was sent off with a half-hour to go, the Quakes scored twice after full time to claim the three points (Donovan 90, Ching 94+).
San Jose then won the final meeting between the clubs, Chris Brown hitting for the only goal on the game (48).
The Earthquakes haven't lost in the last 10 meetings between the two clubs. They won five consecutive meetings from 2001 to 2003, before the teams played to a draw in Foxborough. The Quakes have since won three of the last four meetings, wrapped around last year's draw.
The Revolution's last victory in the series came July 22, 2000, a 2-1 victory in San Jose. The Quakes had a three-game home winning streak against New England ended with the draw last year.
Coaches record: Dominic Kinnear vs. NE: P3 W2 L0 D1 ... Steve Nicol v SJ: P7 W0 L5 D2
ALL-TIME (17 meetings): Earthquakes 14 wins (0 shootout), 50 goals ... Revolution 8 wins (2 shootout), 35 goals ... 3 draws
AT SPARTAN STADIUM (12 meetings): Earthquakes 6 wins (0 shootout), 26 goals ... Revolution 4 wins (1 shootout), 19 goals ... 2 draws
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
It's all change in San Jose, as Dominic Kinnear begins his second season in charge. A number of long-time stalwarts have moved on - most notably Landon Donovan and Jeff Agoos - and Kinnear has had to completely rebuild the midfield. But in a Western Conference that's been full of change already, the Earthquakes have taken on a more workmanlike image that could well lead to success in the tight confines of their Spartan Stadium home.
The Earthquakes concluded their preseason with a 1-0 victory against the USL First Division Charleston Battery on March 25 in the final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup as the Quakes claimed the title in the four-team event. Brad Davis scored the game's only goal, after scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory against D.C. United to open the tournament.
Against the second tier side, Dominic Kinnear took the opportunity to run out a reserve-filled side. Here's his team: Jon Conway, Brett Rodriguez, Ryan Cochrane, Chris Aloisi, Kevin Goldthwaite, Ian Russell (Wade Barrett 66), Tighe Dombrowski, Chris Wondolowski, James Twellman (Brad Davis 66), Roger Levesque (Wes Hart 79), Julian Nash (Alejandro Moreno 79).
The Earthquakes acquired rookie forward Julian Nash from FC Dallas the week before the season opener. A fourth-round selection out of Creighton University in the 2005 SuperDraft, Nash spent three weeks training with the Quakes before his rights were obtained.
The Quakes also made a high-profile deal late in preseason, obtained former U.S. international defender Danny Califf from the Los Angeles Galaxy for a portion of one of the team's allocations. A five-year MLS veteran, Califf had made 103 appearances for the Galaxy and won 12 U.S. national team caps, but suffered through an injury-plagued 2004 that limited him to just 13 matches.
"As a defender, Danny Califf brings a bark and bite that sends forwards running home to mom," said Alexi Lalas, Earthquakes president & general manager "As a person, he brings a personality and charm that can make a mom come running to him."
Returnee Wade Barrett has been handed the captain's armband by Dominic Kinnear. He played for the Earthquakes from 1998-2002 before moving to Scandinavia, where he played for Denmark's AGF Aarhus and Fredrikstad FC (Norway). Jeff Agoos, traded to MetroStars over the winter, was the club captain from 2001-04.
There was also international duty last weekend for forward Dwayne De Rosario, who played the full match for Canada in their 4-1 friendly loss to Portugal in Barcelos.
The Earthquakes have spent a lot of the offseason retooling a team that suffered a number of losses over the winter. The central midfield axis of Richard Mulrooney and Ronnie Ekelund left, in addition to Landon Donovan and captain Jeff Agoos.
"We definitely have something to prove to fans who think we lost a lot of players,'' Ricardo Clark said to the San Jose Mercury News. Added said midfielder Ian Russell: "We want to prove we can do it without a so-called superstar. We definitely have a hard-working team.''
Still, there will be plenty of familiar faces in what is expected to be the opening day XI. Goalkeeper Pat Onstad, and the central defense pairing of Troy Dayak and Eddie Robinson are also returnees. Craig Waibel will be the starter at right back, while Barrett was a Best XI player with the Quakes two years ago.
The central midfield pair will likely be filled by Clark and rookie and first-round pick Danny O'Rourke. Brad Davis will a flank midfield role, with the biggest question still ahead in who will partner Brian Ching in attack.
"I think the character of the team already has come out in preseason. I like what I've seen. First and foremost, this is not a pretty-boy league," Kinnear told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a league of good players and hard work. The players we've brought in have been in the league awhile, and they've shown they're willing to work."
Brian Ching started and played 79 minutes against Guatemala in the World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday, unable to come away with a goal despite some wonderful chances. He did not play in the match against Mexico.
This is the first time in six seasons the Earthquakes have begun the season at home. The last time: a 3-1 loss to Chicago Fire to kick off the '99 campaign.
Last year, the Quakes began the season with a 3-1 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium. (Moreno 12, Eskandarian 39 - Ekelund 19 pen). They had won their opening game the previous three seasons.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Many pundits are asking if the Revolution will be bringing their end-of-season success to the start of the season this year, after another round of heroics to conclude the year. The Revs were the width of the goalpost away from claiming the first-ever penalty kick shootout in MLS history and advancing to the MLS Cup Final after battling D.C. United in one of the most remarkable games ever.
The Revolution concluded their preseason campaign with a 2-1 loss to Barcelona SC in Ecuador on March 24, finishing the match two men down. Jose Cancela gave the Revs a 33rd-minute lead, but Barcelona equalized before the break, then took the lead just before Connally Edozien was sent off for a tackle from behind in the 59th minute. Joe Franchino was shown red after a second bookable offense late in the match.
Here's Steve Nicol's team (3-5-2): Reis, Franchino, Parkhurst, Heaps, Leonard, Joseph, Dorman, Cancela, Riley, Edozien, Smith
It was the just the second match in Ecuador for the Revolution, who also played to a 2-2 with an Emelec under-20 team in Guayaquil. Two other planned matches were called off.
"The trip was less than perfect, I would be lying to you if I said anything different," Nicol told The Boston Globe. The games we have had and the trip has not been the best for preparation. But we have good players and good spirit and we won't be too far away when we start the season."
In the two matches in South America, the Revolution saw four players shown a red card. "[The Revolution] had to do some extra [running] and that won't do them any harm at this stage," Nicol told The Globe. "This showed our fitness is good, and that is one thing you are always unsure of at this stage."
Brazilian midfielder Cassio will be available for the season opener, after completing his visa paperwork and arriving in the country on March 28. The left-sided midfielder came up through the CR Flamengo system and played four seasons with the first team (1998-2001), moving to SC Internacional of Porto Alegre in 2002, then to Atlas in Mexico before returning home to play for Marilia Atletico Clube. In 2004-05, he played for Paraguayan side Olimpia.
"Cássio is a player who immediately adds balance to our team," said Revolution head coach Steve Nicol. "He has a strong left foot, gets up and down the line, puts in a good cross and is well-suited for the MLS style of play."
Steve Ralston, Pat Noonan and Clint Dempsey were all in the U.S. national team for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Guatemala, but forward Taylor Twellman returned to join the Revolution before the team left for Mexico City. "It will be more beneficial to me than watching a game from the stands,'' Twellman told The Boston Herald. "Physically, I feel good. I wish I had gotten a couple of games under my belt but, training-wise and all that, I'm ready to have a good year.''
Carlos Llamosa, who missed the 2004 season with a ligament tear in his knee and has been slowed by a groin injury, is not expected to make the trip to San Jose. "He's fit but he's not 100 percent,'' Nicol told the Herald. "He's had absolutely no problems with the knee whatsoever. I don't think he's going to be available this weekend. We'll see how it goes along.'' That will mean either Avery John or Michael Parkhurst will start in central defense.
Ralston put on a fine performance in the USA's 2-0 victory against Guatemala on Wednesday, scoring the second goal and creating havoc in a full-match outing on the right flank. He had come on as a substitute in Mexico. Noonan came on as a substitute in both matches, while Dempsey was also a late substitute against Guatemala.
Last year, the Revolution began their season with a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center (Ruiz 30, Herzog 59, Kirovski 69 - Heaps 48, Noonan 68).
The Revolution have not won their season opener in eight years. The only time in the eight-year history of the league they opened the campaign with a victory came in 1997, starting with a 1-0 victory away to Dallas Burn. They've taken points on opening day on just two other occasions, a 1-1 draw in 2003 v Chicago and a 1-1 draw at Miami Fusion in 2000.