Quakes & Wizards to battle for their playoff dreamsBy Eric Pederson • Aug 13th, 2010 • Category: Lead Story
The Quakes play the Kansas City Wizards at Buck Shaw Stadium Saturday and you have to wonder if anyone knows what to expect. While both teams are determined to fight for a playoff spot, it is the lowly Wizards who are on the rise.
The Quakes early season surge died. Starved of goals, the strong run of games succumbed to defensive errors. If you want to recall the Quakes last two wins, your memory would have to go back to May. The Quakes have only won a single game this Summer.
Yet the new Quakes mettle still surfaces at times. Less than a month ago the Quakes managed to draw both Tottenham Hotspur and the LA Galaxy, the two best teams they have played this year. Luck and character, two things you can never have too much of, were required for both draws. Luck and character never seem to carry any team too far by themselves.
Injuries are much to blame for the Quakes downturn. The hard working Quakes players have been dropping like flies, a familiar theme from recent years, and the loss of Andres Luiz to knee injuries in June was particularly critical. Luiz’midfield distribution is missed terribly. The Quakes have scored only 5 goals in the 7 games during his absence.
If new signing Khari Stephenson plays Saturday perhaps those bad memories will start to fade. Stephenson, at 6’1”, is a skilled and powerfully built midfielder who is expected to give the Quakes some authority in the middle of the pitch; he is likely to start if his ITC paperwork comes through in time. I could get 100 volunteers to hand carry that paper work on the plane.
What about those Wizards?
It is not as if the Wizards are topping the league. The Wizards, with only 20 points out of 18 games, are slightly behind the Quakes at 23/17. Still the Wizards appear to be on the upswing, unbeaten in their last five matches which included 3 wins. One of those wins was against the Red Devils of Manchester United. Can you imagine the talking Sir Alex Ferguson gave his United squad after that loss? Why do they call them friendlies?
Kei Kamara is the hot striker for the Wizards, with 7 goals to his account this season. Midfielder Ryan Smith has an equal number of assists as well as a goal. Seven Wizards have scored at least one goal so far this season, the team having netted 15 times.
In comparison, the Quakes’ Chris Wondolowski has 6 goals to his credit, and Bobby Convey has 8 assists and a goal, with 11 Quakes having found the net for 20 goals thus far. Similar numbers, but the Quakes numbers are just a bit better.
These two teams are in the same competitive ballpark, and the Wizards are a club the Quakes would expect to beat. Still statistics, character, and luck are not likely to carry the day.
Who is in back?
Perhaps the Quakes stand-out player of the season has been rookie Ike Opara, who became the rock of the Quakes back line and managed to get 3 goals as well. Ike is out with a broken foot.
Jason Hernandez is expected to be available, as is new signing Tim Ward from Chicago, but Ramiro Corrales is reported to have a knee sprain and Chris Leitch is still out with a hip strain. Expect Steve Beitashour and Bobby Burling to find their way back into the lineup out of necessity and hopefully healed enough. It’ll be a backline without a lot of recent play together, at best.
What prospects then?
There is one thing you can be pretty sure of with a Frank Yallop team: the players are going to come and work, and that means both sides of the ball and up and down the pitch. It has been interesting to watch Bobby Convey adopt that approach this season and you can see what a difference it makes in the amount he impacts the game.
On the other hand, toward the end of some Quakes matches you can sense the guys are cooked and it’s very tough to create a piece of magical skill when your muscles are verging on failure. The Quakes do better getting the early goal than trying to get a late one.
Frank Yallop and the Quakes are calling this a must win game, and it certainly is from a fan and morale point of view: a home win is long overdue. The Quakes will need some things to go their way in order to win. Here are things that could make the difference:
- If this patchwork backline can gel and work as a unit to secure the backfield;
- If Stephenson can provide the hoped for midfield orchestration, or if some existing central midfielder like McDonald can step up to provide it;
- If one or more of the Quakes capable strikers can bring their scoring back online. Ryan Johnson is overdue having scored only once this season, and of course Chris Wondolowski goals are things of beauty when they are coming, which hasn’t been much of late.
What the Quakes cannot count on is the Wizards making it easy. The Wizards have a playoff spot in mind and their recent surge in form makes it clear they intend to be there at season’s end. The only way the Wizards or the Quakes are going to the playoffs is if they starting winning more games soon, and that’s a habit both teams are desperate to start on Saturday.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES — OUT: MF Andre Luiz (L knee surgery); FW Eduardo (R hip strain); DF Chris Leitch (L hip strain); DF Ike Opara (L foot fracture); DF Ramiro Corrales (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Scott Sealy (R quad strain); PROBABLE: MF Steven Beitashour (R hand fracture); DF Bobby Burling (R toe contusion)
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS — OUT: MF Zoltan Hercegfalvi (R knee sprain/torn ACL)