San Jose Earthquakes (7-6-5, 26 points, sixth in West) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (13-3-4, 43 points, first in West), at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
All-time record: Galaxy lead 24-14-7
The first meeting between these teams this season, on July 22, featured action from start (Bobby Convey scored in the second minute) to finish (Landon Donovan tied the game in the 90th).
San Jose are entering a critical stretch of the season, with three of their next four matches featuring opponents among the league’s top five franchises. If the Quakes are to make their first playoff appearance since being reincarnated in 2008, they must take some points out of those matches to keep pace with teams such as Seattle, Colorado and Toronto in the bottom half of the postseason chase.
Los Angeles come in having regained some of their swagger by beating the star-studded New York Red Bulls. Now they continue their chase of the franchise’s first 50-point season since 2002.
San Jose Earthquakes
After all the talk about San Jose’s first Designated Player, Brazilian midfielder Geovanni, it’s almost hard to keep in mind that the former Barcelona and Benfica playmaker won’t be on the field Saturday as he waits for his paperwork to be processed. Instead, the Quakes’ offense will need to be stirred by Khari Stephenson, who delivered the inch-perfect pass to Chris Wondolowski for the only goal in San Jose’s 1-0 win against Kansas City last weekend.
Jon Busch will move back into the nets after Joe Cannon suffered a broken ankle in training on Tuesday. Busch started San Jose’s first six matches coming out of the World Cup break, but struggled to deal with long shots and passes and was replaced after a couple of matches.
Forward Ryan Johnson, who came off the bench against Kansas City after playing 79 minutes in Jamaica’s mid-week friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, could start up front with Wondolowski and Convey will continue to fill in for injured captain Ramiro Corrales at left back, with Joey Gjertsen sliding over from right to left mid.
Los Angeles Galaxy
LA coach Bruce Arena is expected to be with the team Saturday despite suffering from a bout of dengue fever that kept him off the sideline last weekend in New York.
The Galaxy were playing on short rest when they faced the Quakes last month, having faced D.C. United in a league match four days earlier while San Jose were tuning up with a friendly against club partner Tottenham Hotspur. Los Angeles could have been facing a similar situation this week, but were spared that fatigue problem after getting knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League prior to group play.
Defender Omar Gonzalez, who made his US National Team debut earlier in the week against Brazil, teamed with Gregg Berhalter in the middle of the Galaxy’s back line to stifle New York's Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel. A.J. DeLaGarza started at left back in place of Todd Dunivant, who is still questionable this week with neck spasms.
Forward Mike Magee, out since May with a sports hernia that eventually required surgery, made his return against the Red Bulls as a 61st-minute substitute.
Heroes & Villains
Brandon McDonald vs. Edson Buddle: Buddle scored his league-leading 13th goal last week to lift the Galaxy past New York. The raw numbers are impressive, but part of his success is due to the sheer volume of chances he gets. Buddle has 32 shots on goal individually this season, which is more than double the amount of the Quakes’ leader in that category (Johnson, with 15).
McDonald, who was released by the Galaxy after the 2008 season, has had to move from defensive midfielder to center back in the wake of Ike Opara’s injury. He’ll be remaining there for the time being, with regular starter Jason Hernandez serving the first half of a two-game suspension.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm...”
Not to play up the stereotype of Californians as front-runners, but it’s a fact: The Galaxy and Quakes are a combined 19-0-2 when they score the first goal this season. LA have won all 13 such games; San Jose are 6-0-2.
Keys to the Game
- Goalie Jon Busch, back in the starting lineup after being demoted last week, can’t give up a soft goal
- Right back Tim Ward must try his best to keep a handle on Galaxy star Landon Donovan
- Build upon last week’s 1-0 win in New York, the Galaxy’s first shutout since June 26
- No letdown after knocking off the Red Bulls in a best-of-the-East vs. best-of-the-West showdown
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: DF Bobby Burling (R toe contusion)
OUT: MF David Beckham (L Achilles tendon surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF Todd Dunivant (neck spasms)