SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski doesn’t have to look far to see the danger posed by CONCACAF Champions League top seed Toluca.
“Pick a spot, they’re dangerous anywhere,” Wondolowski said Monday as the Quakes wrapped up their preparations for Tuesday’s CCL quarterfinal first leg (10 pm ET, FOX Sports 2, Univision Deportes). “That’s why they’re always atop the [Liga MX] leaderboard, or close to it. They’re a good team, steady defensively and very dangerous counterattacking as well.”
That last sentence sounds like it could describe San Jose as well, especially on Tuesday night. In the Quakes’ first competitive contest of 2014 – and with the return leg to be played next week at an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet – San Jose must balance the desire to stymie Toluca’s attack with the need to get some goals on the board while enjoying the support of Buck Shaw Stadium.
“We won’t be throwing everything forward, but we’re going to come out aggressive and try to get a win,” said San Jose coach Mark Watson, who will open up his first full season in charge of the Quakes.
San Jose anticipate one of their strengths, as it was during the club’s second-half run last year, to be a backline anchored by World Cup hopefuls Victor Bernardez (Honduras) and Clarence Goodson (US). They will be asked to absorb plenty of pressure Tuesday night.
“They’ve got quality players in every position,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “They like to play with the ball. For us, it’s going to be a big challenge defensively to stay organized and then take our opportunities offensively.”
From a lineup standpoint, Watson should have close to a full complement of players to choose from. He will be without two potential starters in German right back Andreas Gorlitz, who has been locked in one of San Jose’s more heated positional battles with MLS veteran Brandon Barklage but is still out with a hamstring problem, and newly signed winger Yannick Djalo, who still has visa paperwork to complete.
Meanwhile, veteran target man Alan Gordon, while not ready to play a full match, is “probably 20-25 minutes fit,” Watson said. “There’s a chance he could be on the squad and play a couple of minutes in the game.”