Danny O'Rourke

Quakes ready for challenge in Charleston

The Earthquakes began their final stretch of preseason training early on Friday in Charleston, S.C. After a full day of travel on St. Patrick's Day, the Quakes arrived in chilly Charleston late in the evening to begin preparations for the Carolina Challenge Cup.

Early Friday, the squad was greeted with temperatures in the high 40s and a windy, raw morning for training. Following a spirited practice session that included light running, 5-v-2 drills and a full field scrimmage, the Quakes joined the rest of their opponents in the Carolina Challenge Cup for a media luncheon at Blackbaud Stadium, the home of the Charleston Battery.

The USL First Division Battery, defending MLS Cup Champion D.C. United and the Columbus Crew were all in attendence to meet the local Charleston media, as Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear posed for photographers with the Cup trophy, which was won by the Crew last season.

"I want to win this tournament," Kinnear said. "You don't just come here and try to come in second. I think you play every game to win and that is what we plan on doing."

Preparing for the Opener
With the Earthquakes season opener against the New England Revolution just 15 days away, Kinnear is using the Quakes three exhibition games in the Carolina Challenge Cup to decide on a starting lineup and get those player fit for the rigors of the MLS season.

"First and foremost, we want to come out of here without any injuries, that is always our main concern in preseason events like this," Kinnear said. "I think as we get closer to the season, we are looking to get guys fit to play 90 minutes and we are trying to give some of the guys the majority of the minutes."

A Look Ahead
The Earthquakes open the Carolina Challenge Cup with a matchup against the defending MLS champions, D.C. United, on Saturday, March 19 at Blackbaud Stadium at 5:00 p.m. PT.

United arrived in Charleston on Thursday straight from Jamaica, where they dispatched the Jamaican club Harbour View FC in the CONCACAF Champions Cup on Wednesday night.

D.C. handed the Quakes a tough 2-1 loss to start the 2004 MLS season, and Kinnear believes this late preseason game provides the Quakes with a good opportunity to test themselves before the season starts.

"I want us to start the game well," Kinnear said. "I think we had a good week in L.A., and I want to see again the things that we did well down there. We pressured the ball and moved the ball well. We created scoring opportunities in every game, and I want to continue doing that. On this trip I want us to concentrate more on set pieces and defending so we can become dangerous in those situations the closer we get to the season."

Familiar Faces
The Quakes met up with several familiar faces at the Carolina Challenge Cup media luncheon. New D.C. United forward Jamil Walker, who spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons in San Jose, chatted with several Quakes, including former Santa Clara teammate Ryan Cochrane.

Former Earthquakes midfielders Manny Lagos and Devin Barclay, now with the Columbus Crew, also spent time catching up with their old teammates and coaches.

Practice Report
The Quakes brought a full roster to South Carolina, despite the absences of three national team players. Brian Ching and Brian Mullan remain with the U.S. national team, and recently re-signed forward Dwayne De Rosario is currently with the Canadian national team as they prepare for an international exhibition against the Portuguese national team in Portugal.

Midfielder Ian Russell remained sidelined Friday with a calf strain, but draft choice James Twellman continued to show recovery from his knee injury and participated in the entire practice. Trialist Julian Nash continues to train with the club.

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