SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Vancouver Whitecaps haven't allowed a goal all year and the San Jose Earthquakes are unblemished in the run of play.
Given those data points, it’s easy to assume that a scoreless draw is the inevitable conclusion when the two sides meet Saturday afternoon at Buck Shaw Stadium (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Quakes head coach Frank Yallop thinks that logic is dead wrong.
“It won’t be a defensive game,” Yallop said. “It won’t be. Both teams want to try to go forward and score.”
Perhaps Yallop’s right, in that the law of averages says no team – regardless of how talented their defense – can continue a scoreless streak indefinitely.
“Something’s got to break this weekend,” San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin said. “There will be chances in the game, for sure, so it depends whose attacking players step up and put their chances away, I think.”
With Eric Hassli and Camilo both expected to return Saturday from injury, the Whitecaps may feel more frisky offensively, which in turn could open more counterattacking lines for the Quakes – especially speedy wingers Marvin Chávez and Shea Salinas.
“I’d like to think that we’re going to present some stuff that they haven’t really seen,” Yallop said. “We’ve got good pace wide, and I think that’s important for us going forward. We’ll find out what they’re all about and how they can handle it when we get at them. But they get numbers behind the ball quickly and make it difficult, so it’s not one-vs.-one stuff, that’s for sure.”
With regards to getting men behind the ball, the Whitecaps look a little bit like the 2010 Quakes, who set a franchise record with 13 shutouts and often would bunker up after taking a lead. The resemblance isn’t hurt by the fact that Vancouver is backstopped by resurgent keeper Joe Cannon, who had six of those clean sheets for San Jose in 2010 before suffering a broken ankle that ended his season prematurely.
“This year it seems at least we’re making things predictable and, to be quite honest, we’re getting some breaks,” Cannon was quoted as saying in the Vancouver Province this week. “If we have to give up a goal, and it’s going to happen eventually, we need to find what we’re made of.”
The fact that it’s a battle of two teams near the top of the Western Conference standings – surprisingly so, to most observers – could also provide an added spark to both clubs’ attacking verve.
“It’s an important game for us,” Yallop said. “It’s an important game for Vancouver. We think that we’re at home, we want to get three points. They want to get three points on the road. I don’t see them coming in and sitting back at all.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.