Earthquakes focus on points, not L.A. rivalry


Earthquakes focus on points, not L.A. rivalry


SAN JOSE -- Its that time of summer again. For most Earthquakes fans, Saturday's game is one of the biggest occasions of the season. David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy will make the trip north to Buck Shaw Stadium in a match that more often than not provokes passionate reactions from the Earthquakes fans and provides yet another chapter in the seemingly ceaseless sports rivalry between Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The Earthquakes themselves, though, arent necessarily looking to get one over on the Galaxy because of any sort of rivalry, or even because the Galaxy is the top team in the league.

They're a good team, we know that. Our job is just keep trying to win games at home for sure and picking up your points and you wins when you can get them away from home, head coach Frank Yallop said.

For Yallop, the Galaxys visit provides another opportunity to face the team he coached for a season and a half between 2006 and 2007. However, Yallop insisted there was no extra emotion surrounding the Galaxys fourth visit to the Bay Area since he left the team. When asked if there was any personal meaning for the game, Yallop replied, It never did.

When you play against a team that you've coached the first time's a little uncomfortable, because it's not normal, he continued. You used to be with the guys on the field on the other side, but then once you've done it once it's over. I don't know many of the players now, anyway.

Yallop worked with Landon Donovan in both Los Angeles and in his early years in San Jose, but he'll be happy not to see him this weekend. The U.S. national team star, along with Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, will be representing the United States against Mexico in Saturday evenings Gold Cup final, which is set to kick off less than an hour after the conclusion of the Earthquakes-Galaxy match.

Despite the absence of their offensive centerpiece in Wondolowski, the Earthquakes will be looking to extend their three-game home winning streak and continue their rise up the Western Conference standings.

While a win would still leave San Jose six points behind Seattle Sounders FC in the race for an automatic playoff berth, it would allow the Earthquakes to maintain a hold on one of the four at-large playoff spots while having played fewer games than most teams around them.

We're three wins in a row right now at home, so we've got good momentum going into this game, we've just got to concentrate on this game, just take it as another season game and try to get another W, Earthquakes rookie midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong said.

Theyre the best team in the league, record-wise, but for us its about making sure were ready to play any game we play, Yallop said. Columbus came in here on a seven game unbeaten streak and they were top of the East at the time, and it didn't matter where they were in their league, it's about winning for us and that's all we worry about, not the opposition.

However, it would be impossible to say fans desire to see a victory over the teams biggest rivals is something that the players are completely blocking out.

Big games, thats what we want to play, said Earthquakes forward Ryan Johnson, after being asked what effect the fans desire to see a win might have on the team. We want to play in big games, so we want to win this one for the fans first off, they really want this win against LA and we want it to.

Johnson, often a left winger with the Earthquakes, will be high on confidence after a successful Gold Cup campaign with Jamaica in which he netted two goals. While Jamaica eventually fell 2-0 to the U.S. in the quarterfinals, Johnson said of his goal scoring exploits, It only helps, so Ill just try to keep the same form coming back for the team.

Yallop shared a similar line of thought, saying after practice on Thursday: He looked sharp this morning, so he should be good to go for the weekend. He did well before he left and he had a good Gold Cup so Im excited to get him back on the pitch and he should do well.

Whether Yallop calls on Johnson, or any of the other number of players who have contributed to the teams recent success, the message to the team is the same: Its just another game.

For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs


Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs


The San Jose Earthquakes' season is over, after the Vancouver Whitecaps beat San Jose 5-0 in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night. 

Fredy Montero opened the scoring for the Whitecaps in the 33rd minute. In the second half, Cristian Tecera and Kendall Watson scored seven minutes apart and all but sealed the hosts' first-ever playoff win. Second half substitute Nicolas Mezquida scored a brace for good measure, with two goals in 78th and 80th minute. 

Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski was held off of the scoresheet for his fourth consecutive playoff game. The 34-year-old scored one goal in six career postseason appearances. 

Tuesday marked San Jose's first postseason appearance since 2012. The Earthquakes have not advanced past the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2010.

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Carl Robinson was talking about the need to rely on key veterans in a playoff game.

And then the Vancouver coach all but confirmed that he will replace two long-time standouts on Wednesday in the Whitecaps' Major League Soccer knockout-round playoff game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

One -- left fullback Jordan Harvey, the longest-serving Whitecap -- definitely will not start. Instead, Marcel de Jong, who has been deployed mainly as a utility player on the back line and in midfield, will get the call.

"Marcel has played very well for the last three games he's played, and so has Jordan, but for this matchup, Marcel will play," Robinson said after a practice Tuesday at the club's University of British Columbia training facility.

Harvey, a 33-year-old Mission Viejo, Calif., native, has rarely taken a night off since joining the Whitecaps in a trade from Philadelphia in Vancouver's inaugural MLS season in 2011.

De Jong, a 31-year-old Newmarket, Ontario, native who plays internationally for Canada, got into only 13 games during the regular season and just seven in 2016 after joining the club in midseason from Ottawa of the second-tier North American Soccer League.

Meanwhile, Stefan Marinovic, a 24-year-old New Zealand international, is expected to start in goal as David Ousted, a 31-year-old Dane who has been the team's heavily used starter since his arrival in mid-2013, watches for the fourth time in the past five games.

Marinovic has a modest 2-2-1 record with one shutout.

"It's no gamble at all," Robinson said of changing goalies. "Stef's a top-class goalkeeper. We know that.

"I'm a very lucky manager in this league in that I've got two very good goalkeepers. Stef's come in and, in the games he's played, he's been exceptional. I need him to make saves at big times. (Ousted) has done that throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Stef has now taken charge."

The Wednesday contest marks the time for the Whitecaps to take charge of their postseason fortunes after they squandered a chance to finish first in the Western Conference and dropped to third thanks to a draw with the Earthquakes two weeks ago and a loss to the Portland Timbers last weekend.

Vancouver (15-12-7) has never won a playoff game in its MLS existence.

The winner of Wednesday's contest will play a two-game, total-goals series against either first-place Portland or the second-place Seattle Sounders.

The Earthquakes, who grabbed the sixth and final playoff berth in the West with a 13-14-7 mark, are clear underdogs. However, Vancouver captain Kendall Waston downplayed the apparent pressure on his team, which was a modest 1-3-1 in its last five regular-season games.

"Pressure, for me, is (not having) money to go buy milk for my son," Waston said. "This is trying to be (as) responsible as we can. We have to look at this match as the others, but the thing is, if we lose, we have to go home -- and we (don't) want to go home."

Vancouver's top scorer, Fredy Montero, said he is ready to play a full game after being used as a substitute in Portland due to a minor injury.

Meanwhile, the Earthquakes will try to continue to rebound from a 6-6-5 start that cost former coach Dominic Kinnear his job. Replacement Chris Leitch saw the team endure some fits and starts, but the Earthquakes managed to get into the playoffs after Marco Urena, a teammate of Waston on Costa Rica's national team, scored the last-minute winner over Minnesota United last weekend.

"I always shine in these important moments," Urena said afterward. "God chose me (for such times.)"

The Earthquakes might need some divine intervention after allowing 21 more goals than they scored during the regular season. Even so, they have one of the all-time best MLS players in Chris Wondolowski, who assisted on the winner and also scored last weekend, earning MLS player of the week honors.

"Legitimately one of the hardest things I had to do in my life," Wondolowski, who loves to shoot, said about passing on the winning goal.

Wondolowski, who is tied for second on the MLS all-time scoring list with Jeff Cunningham at 134 goals, said it has been a "look-in-the mirror-and-see-what-you're-made-of season," for the Quakes, who made several midseason roster changes.