The San Jose Earthquakes looked fantastic in beating Real Salt Lake over the weekend, and thus continued their trend of playing up to their competition. The flip side to that equation is what the Quakes do when facing a lesser team, such as in early season draws to Chivas USA and the Columbus Crew, and a loss to rudderless Portland Timbers two weeks ago. Their next opponent, FC Dallas, has faltered heavily this season but does enter Buck Shaw Stadium on a mini-unbeaten streak. Part of that streak was earning a scoreless draw at FC Dallas Stadium a dozen days ago, in a game that saw the Earthquakes vaunted offense sputter against a defensively resolute Dallas side.
Will tonight’s match feature much of the same from the two clubs as was on offer to watch last July 7, or will both teams take a different approach in trying to turn one point into three. Anything can happen in the parity-filled world of MLS, but some outcomes seem more likely than others.
San Jose Earthquakes will win because… they are undefeated at Buck Shaw this season and have committed themselves to playing their best in front of their home crowd. Just this week in a Quakes Cast interview with Justin Morrow, the Earthquakes ironman defender noted how the team had come together in the preseason and pledged their effort toward achieving a true home field advantage. Too often in 2011, the team seemed to sleepwalk through portions of their home schedule, and they needlessly dropped points in an otherwise unforgettable season. In 2012, if you exclude the 1-0 loss suffered to the Houston Dynamo at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the Earthquakes are unbeaten south of the San Mateo county line.
A big part of that home success has been a consistent effort from the defense. Going on six games now, the Earthquakes back four has featured the same players right to left and has earned clean sheets in each of their past two games. Central defenders Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez are proving to be as good a combination as is playing in MLS today, and the two outside backs Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow are securing the defensive third while being very active in the Earthquakes attack moving forward. Goalkeeper Jon Busch, often forgotten because he has had to make few plays this season, anchors the unit and has proven to be every bit the veteran leader the Earthquakes expected.
Along with the strong defensive effort is the performance of the offense at Buck Shaw Stadium. With a 5-0-2 record at The Buck, the Earthquakes have been scoring at a great clip at home. FC Dallas may have stymied them at their own home, but look for Chris Wondolowski and the rest of the Quakes offense to break through against the Hoops in a big way tonight.
Keep reading after the jump for why the Quakes will lose and why you shouldn't miss this match:
San Jose Earthquakes will lose because… they have not done well in proverbial trap games. Two weeks ago, with the glow of winning an epic 4-3 California Clasico at sold-out Stanford Stadium, the Earthquakes went into bottom-feeding Portland Timbers and suffered an embarrassing 2-1 loss. The effort was good, but not great, and the result was a loss to the Timbers that didn’t need to be. Portland fired their coach less than a week later, and San Jose provided the outgoing John Spencer is final MLS victory.
Four days ago, the Earthquakes dismantled a very good Real Salt Lake team in an exciting 5-0 victory at Buck Shaw Stadium. The lopsided score came about in large part because of a man-advantage handed to the Quakes when RSL captain Kyle Beckerman was red-carded for a retaliatory tackle on Sam Cronin, but San Jose was still dominating the game to that point despite the seemingly innocent score of only 1-0. The victory was never in doubt according to head coach Frank Yallop, who sensed his club would have little trouble dispatching their conference rivals.
From the high of the sold-out RSL match comes a midweek fixture with FC Dallas. Having just ended a long winless streak, the Hoops will want to keep their momentum going against the Earthquakes. Yes, the Earthquakes are hosting this trap game as opposed to being on the road as they were for Portland, but the team needs to overcome any post-match mental hangovers from the weekend victory over RSL and concentrate on dispatching a clearly inferior team. Fail to do that, and the Earthquakes ten match unbeaten streak at The Buck will come to an end.
You don’t want to miss this match because… Chris Wondolowski is on the brink of making MLS history and is perhaps becoming too recognizable to stay in San Jose much longer. This is the silly season for world football, with top European clubs stocking up for another long campaign. Don’t be surprised if Wondolowski’s name becomes more prominent in discussions to lure him away from MLS. Yes, this would be terrible for the Earthquakes, but Wondolowski have proven his class as a striker and may relish the idea of proving himself in a top European league. If that temptation becomes too strong, and he indeed makes his way across the pond, you’ll not want to miss out on a chance of seeing him playing live here in San Jose.