Earthquakes preview: Gunning for the Goats

The Quakes will look to knock off the Goats and strengthen their position at the top of the MLS standings.

The San Jose Earthquakes are back in action after a two-week break from MLS play, as they travel to Los Angeles to play Chivas USA. Courtesy of the Goats loss to Seattle last weekend, the Quakes are the first team in the league to qualify for the postseason.

However, not content to just be happy with that accomplishment, the Earthquakes are gunning to keep their spot atop the MLS single table standings. If San Jose can keep their competitors at bay over the next seven games of the season, then the franchise will collect its second Supporters’ Shield.

"I think the focus is the same we’ve had all year, and that is to try to win every game that we go into," head coach Frank Yallop told Quake, Rattle and Goal. "We have the Supporters’ Shield in hand, but the race is close and one game here or there you get caught. We want to get as many points as we can from this day on."

The last time the Earthquakes took to the pitch, they dismantled Chivas USA 4-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Courtesy of the MLS schedule, they face the Goats for the second league match in a row tonight at The Home Depot Center. Chivas USA, who up to a few weeks ago harbored ideas of also making it to the postseason, are winless in their last six matches.

"Every game is different, whether you beat them before or not," said Yallop about facing Chivas again. "Seattle beat them 6-2 away but only managed to beat them 2-1 late at home. If you go back to the first result, it should have been easy for them, but it wasn’t. We’ve been in the same spot Chivas is now in, and we kept fighting."

Chivas USA might be struggling, but the team has historically been a tough opponent for the Earthquakes, especially in LA. Before last fortnight’s 4-0 victory over the Rojiblancos, San Jose had only beaten Chivas USA once in 10 meetings dating back to the start of the 2008 season. In each of the last two seasons, the Earthquakes have lost against Chivas at the HDC.

Reversing their LA jinx is paramount to the Earthquakes continued pursuit of the Supporters’ Shield, especially with the Seattle Sounders in hot pursuit and a trip to CenturyLink Field on tap for next weekend. But no matter the opponent, San Jose needs to continue to play at the high level that has brought them so much success in 2012, especially in order to secure a top-three Western Conference finish and to avoid playing in the fourth-versus-fifth wildcard game.

"I looked at the standings and we would have to have a complete collapse to end up down there," said Yallop, "but as you know in our league every game is difficult and we have to stay focused and try to grind away and get the results. We just want to finish well. Anytime you get away from what you’ve done well all year you tend to get into trouble."

Already with more goals scored than in any other season in franchise history, the Earthquakes will look to their offense to carry the day against Chivas USA. Five times San Jose has scored four or more goals in a league game, and the Earthquakes forward trio of Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart are all ready to face a Chivas team that will likely be without defensive captain Danny Califf.

"All three of them want to play, and I understand that," said Yallop, "but we’re coming off a couple good results with the combinations we’ve had so it difficult to change a lot of stuff. We have three good strikers up top, and Simon Dawkins adding too, so we have some pretty good options to work with."

With three games in the next eight days, Yallop will probably make a few changes in the starting line-up for the midweek game against the Portland Timbers, but he is likely to keep the same starting line-up tonight that beat Chivas two weeks ago. Defender Justin Morrow, who was given the night off the last game, could find himself in the Starting XI this time, with left-side partner Ramiro Corrales moving to midfield and Simon Dawkins switching to the right to replace a tired Marvin Chavez.

Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PDT at The Home Depot Center and the game can be viewed on Comcast SportsNet California and MLS Live.

GAME NOTES

REFEREE: Chris Penso (MLS Career: 28 games; FC/gm: 21.8; Y/gm: 2.8; R: 6; pens: 10). AR1 (bench) — George Gansner; AR2 (opposite) — Jeremy Hanson; 4th —Alejandro Mariscal.

INJURY REPORT: Chivas USA — QUESTIONABLE: DF Danny Califf (R hamstring strain); GK Tim Melia (lower back); PROBABLE: MF Ryan Smith (R hamstring strain); MF Peter Vagenas (R hamstring strain).

San Jose Earthquakes — OUT: MF Cesar Diaz Pizarro (R groin strain); MF Joey Gjertsen (R knee surgery); MF Sercan Guvenisik (L hamstring strain); DF Tim Ward (L non-specific soft tissue injury); PROBABLE: DF Jason Hernandez (R hamstring strain); MF Shea Salinas (L hamstring strain); DF Jed Zayner (R quad strain).

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS: Suspended Next Yellow Card: CHV — Shalrie Joseph, Oswaldo Minda; SJ — Victor Bernardez, Rafael Baca.

Suspended After Two Yellow Cards: CHV — Ryan Smith; SJ — Mehdi Ballouchy. Marvin Chavez, Ramiro Corrales, Steven Lenhart, Steven Beitashour, Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski.

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