Tough road ahead for Earthquakes

Coming off an impressive 2-0 win Saturday over D.C. United in front of 19,324 spectators at Spartan Stadium, the Earthquakes are facing a pair of crucial road games this week, beginning Wednesday night against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field (7 p.m. PT, FOX Sports Net).

Then it's off to Kansas City, where they will meet the Wizards (9-5-5, 32 points) at Arrowhead Stadium (1 p.m. PT, ESPN2). K.C. trails Western Conference-leading Los Angeles (9-5-5, 33 points) by a point.

Despite a three-match MLS unbeaten streak, the Quakes are still in the cellar in the five-team conference, trailing both Dallas (7-7-5, 26 points) and Colorado (6-6-8, 26 points) by two points. Dallas is home Wednesday night agaisnt New England, and the Rapids visit D.C. United.

If the Quakes expect to defend their MLS Cup title this season, they're going to have to produce better on the road. They have accumulated only seven points with a 2-5-1 record away from Spartan Stadium. The tie was 1-1 at Chicago.

After this week, the Quakes will have 10 MLS matches remaining (five at home). Adding to their stretch run will be a midweek U.S. Open semifinal match against Kansas City on Aug. 24 in Overland Park, Kan.

The Quakes also are going to have to play without midfielder/forward Landon Donovan, forward Dwayne De Rosario and goalkeeper Pat Onstad for a number of games. All three will be playing in World Cup qualifiers: Donovan with the U.S., De Rosario and Onstad with Canada.

Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear can only selfishly hope that U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena won't call up forward Brian Ching. Playing without Donovan, Ching and De Rosario would take a huge chunk out of the Quakes' attack.

BIG WEEKEND LOOMING: For those of you who want to see the Earthquakes remain in the Bay Area, preferably in Santa Clara Valley, and would like to see a soccer stadium constructed locally, your presence is requested at a rally on Friday, Aug. 20, from noon until 1 p.m. at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose, across from the Fairmont Hotel.

AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), investor-operator of the Quakes and four other MLS teams, is looking for another investor-operator for the club. Soccer Silicon Valley, a grassroots group, is trying to line up investors to operate the club and build a soccer-specific stadium.

Among the supporters expected to attend the rally are several members of the old San Jose Earthquakes who will be participating in an Earthquakes "Legends" throwback game on Saturday, Aug. 21, at Spartan Stadium prior to the 7 p.m. match between the Quakes and Dallas Burn.

Several ex-Quakes will be finding their way back to San Jose from throughout the country, including Paul Child, Gary Etherington and Steve David. Other possibilities are Laurie Calloway, Steve "Red" Ryan, Fernando Clavijo and Mike Hunter.

Also participating in the reunion weekend and game will be former Quakes' general manager Johnny Moore, Mani Hernandez, Easy Perez, Chris Dangerfield, Mike Hewitt and Gabbo Gavric.

Traveling the longest distance will be former popular Quakes forward Godfrey Ingram from England.

The players will train from 2:30 until 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20 at the San Jose State soccer fields across 10th Street from Spartan Stadium. Then, they will gather at the downtown Britannia Arms from 5 p.m. until who knows.

"Everyone is welcome at the Brit," said reunion game organizer Ron Gilmore. "We'd like to see past and present Quakes fans there to meet and mingle with the alumni players. It's all about having a good time."

The last throwback match involving former Quakes players was staged in 2001 prior to a Quakes MLS game at Spartan Stadium. One of the highlights was Tim Hanley, the Quakes goalkeeper coach, making an outstanding save in the waning minutes for the White team to preserve a 7-6 win over the Red team. Gavric, the oldest participant at 65, played the entire 90 minutes.

ANOTHER QUAKE POW: Midfielder Brian Mullan, who had a goal and assist in the Quakes' Saturday win over D.C. United, this week became the fifth Quake selected as an MLS Player of the Week in the last two seasons. Ching and Onstad have been selected earlier this season (Onstad twice) and Donovan, De Rosario and Onstad were each selected once in 2003.

Dave Payne is a freelance soccer writer. He previously covered soccer for 33 years for the San Jose Mercury News. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of Major League Soccer or its teams.

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