Union Looking to Gain Ground vs SJ
San Jose Earthquakes (9-7-6) vs. Philadelphia Union (6-11-6) at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
All-time record: Earthquakes lead 1-0-0
10:00pm ET, Live Well HD Network
With just 23 points from 23 matches, the Union have had plenty of missed opportunities, but none may hurt as much as their 2-1 defeat to visiting San Jose on July 10.
Philadelphia took an early lead, but San Jose equalized in first-half injury time against the run of play before they gobsmacked the Union in the 91st minute with the winning goal.
Now both teams head into the final stretch with slightly different goals. Philadelphia are long shots to make the playoffs as they sit nine points out of that eighth-and final postseason berth, though they're enjoying a good run of form that they iced with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday. The Union will be looking to finish their inaugural season strong.
San Jose, on the other hand, are aiming for their first postseason appearance since their return to the league in 2007. They share that final playoff berth with the Seattle Sounders and will want to take full advantage of the two games in hand that they have on their West Coast rivals.
Somebody knock on wood. Quakes forward Eduardo made just his second appearance of the season last weekend in which he nearly conjured a toe-poke volley goal and, most importantly, did not appear to re-injure anything. Given the dearth of quality finishing the Quakes have suffered through this season, a healthy Eduardo is a huge boost to San Jose’s ever-growing playoff hopes.
If Khari Stephenson misses a second match because of his sprained left ankle, Yallop wants to get more out of the partnership of Chris Wondolowski and Geovanni in the center of the pitch. Against FC Dallas last week, Wondolowski replaced Stephenson as an attacking center midfielder and often overlapped with second striker Geovanni. But neither of them saw enough of the ball in that match, Yallop admitted.
“I don’t think we created enough slow buildup in their half for Wondo to arrive in the box, or Geo,” Yallop said. “We didn’t really create a ton of stuff high in the final third, and neither did they. So it was kind of a nullified game.”
After a season riddled by mistakes, Chris Seitz may have finally lost his hold on the starting goalkeeper position. His replacement last weekend, Brad Knighton, helped the Union post their first shutout in franchise history against Chicago. Although Philadelphia Manager Peter Nowak wouldn’t commit to Knighton, it’s hard to imagine bumping a ‘keeper coming off a clean sheet.
Danny Califf, Philadelphia’s captain and a former member of the Quakes’ first incarnation, is at the heart of a defense that has stabilized of late, allowing the Union to go 2-1-3 in their last six matches. Shea Salinas, who returned last week from a broken fibula, played with the Quakes in 2008 and ’09 before being plucked by Philadelphia in the expansion draft.
Newcomers have helped bolster Philadelphia late in their inaugural season. Sheanon Williams, a member of the Harrisburg City Islanders two weeks ago, gave a credible performance at right back last week in place of injured Juan Diego González, himself a mid-season arrival from Colombia. Midfielder Justin Mapp, acquired from Chicago for allocation money on July 26, assisted on last week’s winning score.
Heroes and Villains
Sebastien Le Toux vs. Bobby Convey: Sebastien Le Toux is once again on form, scoring in back-to-back matches after a five-game dry spell, which is especially good news if Danny Mwanga is unavailable due to the shoulder injury which knocked him out after 55 minutes against Chicago last week. Le Toux is second in the league with 10 assists, and Convey is right behind, tied for third with nine. But Convey hasn’t been as involved in the San Jose attack of late, having to spend three matches at left back after captain Ramiro Corrales went out with a sprained left knee. With Tim Ward manning that spot, Convey is free to once again hunt for crossing opportunities out on the wing.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm …”
The Quakes may be fighting for their playoff lives, but they’re doing so at a distinct advantage. The combined winning percentage of San Jose’s remaining foes is a mere .427, the lowest of any of the MLS’ 15 clubs.