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High-altitude road trip for Quakes begins with Colorado

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes hope to be flying high this week on their high-altitude road trip.

With games in Colorado on Wednesday (9:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online) and at Real Salt Lake on Saturday, the Quakes return to MLS play in the league’s two thin-air stops – something that could add to the natural fatigue of playing twice in the space of four days. San Jose will try to combat that problem by staying over in Salt Lake City, at an altitude of 4,327 feet, between the two matches.

“I don’t know how long it takes to get acclimated, but I think we’ll be alright,” Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin told MLSsoccer.com after training Tuesday. ”We’ve had a good break.”

Quakes coach Frank Yallop feels it takes two weeks to truly become acclimated to the heights of Salt Lake City and Denver, but hopes the added time will help alleviate any problems, especially in the second match.

“The lack of oxygen, obviously the guys from Colorado and Salt Lake are used to it,” Yallop said. “They train every day in it. When you go in there, you don’t think it makes a difference. It’s not a big, big difference, but it is a difference.”

Cronin said he finds “the first 10 to 15 minutes more difficult” in matches at altitude, but so far this season, the visitors to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park have been wilting late in the games rather than early. In six home matches, counting from the 76th minute on, the Rapids are outscoring their opposition by a combined 6-0 count.

With the Quakes having scored a league-best eight times in that same final 15-minute segment, it should be a battle of strength against strength late in the match.

One side benefit of the scheduling quirk is that it affords the Quakes their first chance this season to bond over a multi-city road trip.

“It’s nothing tangible, but I think it helps having the guys together and spending time together,” Cronin said.

One player who won’t be on hand to enjoy the camaraderie is rookie winger Sam Garza. During this month’s MLS break, the UC Santa Barbara product made a strong pitch for more regular-season playing time with his decisive brace against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a third-round US Open Cup victory. But Garza suffered fractured ribs in a collision with right back Steven Beitashour during training Monday and is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.

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