SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop is preparing his team for a match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium in a game whose result will determine first place in the Western Conference and the leader for the Supporters’ Shield (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
He may, however, have to deviate slightly from his usual routine.
“We’ll have to send directions out to the players on how to find the field,” Yallop cracked to reporters.
It’s funny, but true. Saturday's match will mark the first time in eight weeks that the Quakes have played at Buck Shaw. San Jose have hosted four games since drawing 1-1 with Columbus on May 19, but three have been on Stanford University's campus – including a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory against the LA Galaxy at a sold-out Stanford Stadium on June 30 – while the other was held at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
“We were joking earlier that we never thought we’d be looking so forward to getting back to Buck Shaw,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski said. The Galaxy match “was amazing, just because of the fan atmosphere and the whole environment, but I do like playing at Buck Shaw. It’s a good little place and our fans are loud. It’s nice. I miss it.”
Beginning with the RSL match, the Quakes will close out their 2012 MLS slate with nine of 15 games at home, something that could prove crucial in league-leading San Jose’s attempt to chase down the Supporters’ Shield.
“It’s great to get back,” Yallop said. “For us, destiny’s in our hands, if you like. We’ve got a lot of home games coming up. But as we know, teams can win on the road, and no game’s easy.”
The Quakes are 5-1-2 at home this year, with the only loss coming at a soggy AT&T Park back in March, when Houston snatched up a 1-0 victory. San Jose are 6-0-3 in their last nine matches at Buck Shaw, and unbeaten there for nearly a year, dating back to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Rapids on Aug. 13.
“It seems like forever since the last time we played here,” said Quakes captain Ramiro Corrales, who will have to wait another week after getting sent off in San Jose’s scoreless tie against FC Dallas last weekend. “We should win a lot of those games at home, hopefully. I’m looking forward to playing at home and in front of our fans.”
Assuming, of course, that he remembers how to get there.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.