San Jose Earthquakes (12-8-7, 43 points, fifth place in Western Conference)
vs. Houston Dynamo (7-15-6, 27 points, eighth place in Western Conference)
Saturday, October 16, 9 p.m. CT
Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
All-time record: San Jose leads 3-2-1
8:45 p.m. KHOU 11.2 (English)
8:30 p.m. TV Informa (Spanish)
8:15 p.m. SportsTalk 790 (English)
8:30 p.m. La Ranchera 850 (Spanish)
Game Guide - downloadable PDF
The’ battle for the playoffs may be won, but they still have a chance to make another statement against their former selves.
San Jose has not lost at home to the franchise formerly known as the Quakes, having gone 2-0-1 in two seasons against the Dynamo. A win at home would give San Jose its first-ever season sweep against Houston, coming on the heels of a 2-1 victory at Robertson Stadium on Sept. 5. That game featured the only two goals scored since July 31 by a San Jose player not named Chris Wondolowski.
In the sixth minute, Khari Stephenson redirected a beautiful cross from Designated Player Geovanni, who was making his first start since joining the club three weeks earlier. After a Brad Davis equalizer just before halftime, Geovanni struck for the game-winner in the 64th with a searing 14-yard shot that left goalkeeper no chance to react. Houston outshot San Jose 16-6 in the match.
San Jose Earthquakes
Coach Frank Yallop has made no secret that he wants to keep his best players both healthy and safe heading into his team’s first postseason game since being reestablished in 2008.
But it would also behoove them to win their last three matches, if only from a ticket-selling standpoint: A first-round home match against hated Los Angeles – a near certainty if the Quakes can pass Seattle to finish fourth in the Western Conference – would garner more interest than one against, say, Columbus, which will likely face the eighth-place overall club.
“We want to win three games to see the season out, that’s what we want to do,” Yallop said. “Whoever’s playing will want to do that for this team. It’s not like we’re playing a bunch of kids to save players. We’re going in with a structured lineup that I feel is going to win a game. It’s not a weakened team at all.”
Center back Brandon McDonald will definitely miss the contest after trading blows – and red cards – with DC’s Jaime Moreno in the eighth minute. Expect to see Bobby Burling back in that position as the team attempts to set a new franchise record for shutouts, having tied the mark at 12 with their blanking of United.
Houston will be without forward Joseph Ngwenya and midfielder Geoff Cameron, both of whom drew red cards in the Dynamo’s 2-1 loss to New England last weekend and left their teammates to finish up 11-on-9. Cameron’s absence will be keenly felt, and he made it a point to apologize to his teammates after decking the Revolution’s Pat Phelan in retaliation for an earlier hard tackle that Cameron felt was beyond the pale.
“It was stupid on my part,” Cameron said this week. “It’s disappointing, mentally, that I let [Phelan] get to me a little too much.”
Brian Ching, who ranks fourth on the Quakes’ all-time scoring list with 25 goals before the team’s move after the 2005 season, hopes to play despite swelling in his knee. He’s being pushed for the mantle of Dynamo leading goal-scorer by Dominic Oduro, who has three goals in his last four matches to run his total to five in MLS play this season and seven overall.
Ching has seven goals in 2010, including a hat trick against Chicago in August, and a team-high three lifetime against the new San Jose franchise.
Heroes & villains
Chris Wondolowski vs. Pat Onstad: As the league’s oldest player at 42 years of age, Onstad should not have to finish out the year playing with a bad hand. But with backup Tally Hall still hampered by a high ankle sprain, Onstad, who still ranks second on most every all-time goalkeeping record for the Quakes behind Joe Cannon, may not have a choice.
Facing San Jose for a second time will give Onstad a chance to once again shut out Wondolowski, who was kept off the scoresheet in the teams’ first meeting this season. Another shutout would tap the brakes on Wondolowski’s MVP bandwagon, which is picking up speed.
Wondo took home a second MLS Player of the Week award in the space of four games with his brace against DC, which included his league-leading eighth game-winner, and has tallied San Jose’s last six goals – a new franchise record.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm”
If the season ended today, Wondolowski would rank third all-time in terms of percentage of team goals scored. So far this season, Wondolowski has 14 of San Jose's 30 goals (46.7 percent).
Only Taylor Twellman, who had 23 of 49 goals (46.9 percent) for the 2002 New England Revolution, and Carlos Ruiz, who had 24 of 44 goals (54.5 percent) for the 2002 Los Angeles Galaxy, rank ahead of him.
- Don’t let anyone get hurt in advance of the team’s first playoff game as Quakes v2.0.
- Get Chris Wondolowski the chances he needs to pass up Edson Buddle in the Golden Boot race.
- Make do without stalwart Geoff Cameron, who will sit after seeing red last weekend against New England.
- Take advantage of San Jose’s propensity to start slowly at home with an early goal.
OUT: MF Andre Luiz (L knee surgery); DF Ike Opara (L foot fracture); GK Joe Cannon (L ankle fracture); QUESTIONABLE: DF Ramiro Corrales (L knee sprain)
OUT: MF Colin Clark (L knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: FW Brian Ching (R knee swelling); GK Tally Hall (R ankle sprain); MF Anthony Obodai (L knee surgery)