SALT LAKE CITY, Utah
7:30 p.m. MT (FSN-BA)
The Western Conference clubs begin their rivalry with a first-ever meeting, both eagerly seeking a victory. Real Salt Lake recorded the first victory in club history in their first-ever home match - then crashed back to earth with a heavy loss in Dallas last weekend. The San Jose Earthquakes allowed late goals in each match in going winless in their first three games to begin the season, before overcoming two deficits last weekend in claiming a first win on the new year.
REFEREE: Ben Jones. SAR (bench): Nate Clement; JAR (opposite): George Vergara; 4th: Alex Prus
MLS Career: first game
Games involving Real: first game
Games involving Earthquakes: first game
INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE - PROBABLE: MF Andy Williams (L groin strain); MF Brian Kamler (R groin strain); FW Jason Kreis (L lateral knee pain); MF Leslie Fitzpatrick (L groin strain); MF Evan Whitfield (groin strain); DF Rusty Pierce (L hamstring tightness) ... SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: DF Danny Califf (R knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE: MF Ricardo Clark (R ankle sprain); DF Chris Aloisi (R ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: RSL: DF Eddie Pope (through May 1)
YELLOW PERIL: SJ: Brian Ching (10 CP in 2 gms)
ALL-TIME: first meeting
This is the first-ever meeting between the Western Conference clubs, and the first of four this season. They next meet on June 18 at Spartan Stadium. Their second encounter in Utah will be on Aug. 20, with the final match between the clubs set for Oct. 8.
Coaches record: John Ellinger v SJ: first game ... Dominic Kinnear vs. RSL: first game
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake followed the highest point in the club's young history with perhaps the lowest, completely dominated in a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl. Real have four points from their first four matches, tied for fourth place in the Western Conference with the Colorado Rapids, a point behind San Jose Earthquakes and six behind leaders FC Dallas.
At the Cotton Bowl, FC Dallas struck early and never looked back in remaining unbeaten through four matches on the season. Richard Mulrooney opened the FCD account after just four minutes when he whipped in a free kick from just outside the area, the second time this season he's scored within four minutes of the start of a match.
Then after Eddie Johnson hit the woodwork for the first of two times he would do it on the night, he doubled the Dallas lead on a quick break, running down a long ball played over the top before cutting inside and lashing a low shot inside D.J. Countess's near post from the right side of the are (35).
Carlos Ruiz finished off the scoring from the penalty spot (63), taking his own spot kick after he was tripped up running at goal. Real defender Eddie Pope was sent off 18 minutes from the end, just the second time in his 10-year MLS career he was shown a red card.
"We weren't there. One team came out to play tonight and that was Dallas," said Real midfielder Clint Mathis. "You have to give them credit for coming out. At the same time we need to look at ourselves and say 'what are we doing out there?'"
Real coach John Ellinger made one change to the team that defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 the previous Saturday afternoon in Utah. Leslie Fitzpatrick made his first MLS start, coming into the center of midfield for Brian Kamler, who failed to recover from a groin strain.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-3-1-2): D.J. Countess - Rusty Pierce, Brian Dunseth, Eddie Pope, Marlon Rojas - Chris Brown (Leighton O'Brien 71), Leslie Fitzpatrick, Luke Kreamalmeyer (Evan Whitfield 46) - Clint Mathis - Jason Kreis, Dipsy Selolwane (Nelson Akwari 82)
"We got outworked in the first half. In the second half, we didn't get outworked," Ellinger said. "We gave up two restart goals and Eddie Johnson scored a nice one."
Expect a few changes in Ellinger's team this week. Midway through the first half, he had his two flank midfielders switch sided, then at halftime, Evan Whitfield made his Real debut, coming on Luke Kreamalmeyer, by then on the right of midfield. "We came out sharper and worked harder" in the second half, Ellinger said.
For Jason Kreis, the return to Dallas didn't go quite as he hoped. The MLS original returned to the place where he played the first nine years in the league. "It was strange. I knew that it would be strange and emotional, I thought it would be a dream, but it turned into a nightmare," he said. "When the whistle blew, everything looked different."
No. 1 overall pick Nik Besagno has been training with the team during the week, and on Wednesday night played for the RSL reserves in a 3-1 victory against Brigham Young University in Provo. Besagno came on at halftime. "It is good to have him so he can develop for a little bit and get in some reserve games and when the opportunity comes, step in and do the job for us," said Ellinger. Besagno will be with the team through the weekend before returning to Bradenton, Fla. to complete his high school education in May.
INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS
Pope will of course be suspended for this weekend's match. But he felt aggrieved after the red card. "It was a typical foul; certainly not a red card," Pope said. "If the referee reviews it himself, he won't think it was a red card either. And if he does think it was a red card, he doesn't deserve to be reffing." Nelson Akwari will likely return to center back in place of Pope. Andy Williams could see some time off the substitutes' bench after suffering a groin injury on April 9 at Los Angeles Galaxy. However, Ellinger said he will not start. "We don't want to force the issue; we want to have him long term instead of short term," he said.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The San Jose Earthquakes overcame two deficits - then held on to a lead of their own - in claiming a 3-2 victory against the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night at home, their first win of the campaign. The triumph left the Quakes with five points from their four matches on the season and in third place in the Western Conference, one behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and five behind MLS overall leader FC Dallas.
At Spartan Stadium, the Earthquakes twice overcame leads before holding one, something they hadn't been able to do in their first three games this season.
Rookie Scott Sealy put the Wizards head on five minutes when he banged home a close-range rebound of a Jimmy Conrad shot that the Earthquakes defense failed to clear. But it took San Jose just nine minutes to respond, Ronald Cerritos running onto a long ball from Craig Waibel, holding off a defender and firing a shot past Bo Oshoniyi inside the near post.
The Wizards again took the lead in the 34th minute when Chris Klein was sent in alone on goal on the left side by Kerry Zavagnin and cleanly beat Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad, but again the home side quickly responded, Brian Ching diving to head home another free kick service from Brad Davis (40).
Dwayne DeRosario then gave his side their first lead in the 55th minute with a spectacular long-range effort from 25 yards as he moved to his right across the field. The Quakes bugaboo this season then seemed ready to come back and haunt them after Eddie Robinson was adjudged to have fouled Conrad in the area just five minutes later, but this time Onstad saved the day, deflecting the resulting Josh Wolff penalty off the face of the crossbar.
"At the end, the guys really put in a great effort. They were diving in to block shots and they just did what they had to do at the end, said Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear. "We have talked a lot about finishing out the game the past few weeks and we got it done tonight."
Kinnear made one change to the team that saw the Chicago Fire snatch a 2-1 win in stoppage time the previous weekend. Dwayne DeRosario made his first start of the season - in an attacking midfield position instead of his usual front-running role - with Ricardo Clark dropped.
Here's Kinnear's team (4-3-1-2): Pat Onstad - Craig Waibel, Troy Dayak, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett - Brian Mullan, Danny O'Rourke, Brad Davis (Ricardo Clark 83) - Dwayne De Rosario - Brian Ching, Ronald Cerritos (Alejandro Moreno 80)
Kinnear was pleased with effort of DeRosario in the attacking midfield role. "I thought Dwayne was very effective today in his new role," Kinnear said. "We saw in the Kansas City video against [the MetroStars] that sometimes when you held good possession, a soft pocket developed between their back four and their middle two midfielders. We felt it was something Dwayne could exploit by running off into the space facing the goal."
After allowing late goals to reverse results in each of the first three matches, the Earthquakes were desperate to hold on for the victory on Saturday. "Over the four games we could have definitely had more points on the board," said Kinnear, "but the way things have happened, it could have been easy to put their heads down - especially with the goal that Kansas City scored so early."
Said defender Wade Barrett: "We did all the correct things that we haven't done in the first three games. We've also been a little bit unlucky, but today we were striving for that balance between attacking and defending at the end of the game."
Ching is still atop the MLS scoring table with three goals - all coming from crosses from the left boot of Brad Davis. "Brad whips in a great ball, so I just try to beat my defender to a spot," said Ching. "Brad's been putting the ball right where it needs to be every time and I've been fortunate enough to head it in."
Defender Troy Dayak announced he will retire after the 2005 season, when he will become head coach of the indoor California Cougars. Dayak was a San Jose Clash original and has played all but one of his 17-year professional career in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.