Last year's Supporter's Shield winners aren't off to a good start despite pulling off yet another stoppage time stunner against the Los Angeles Galaxy this past Saturday night. The Earthquakes (I refuse to type the "G" word) scored twice in extra time to earn three points in a match that they were thoroughly outplayed in for 90 minutes but they'd still be on the outside of the playoff picture if the season ended today. San Jose is sitting at 5-7-6 and is tied for second worst defense in MLS with 27 goals allowed.
They never were a good defensive squad despite winning the aforementioned Shield in 2012 and their defensive issues won't improve much in the immediate future either. A key player in the middle of their defense, Victor Bernardez will be missing from this match thanks to a dual yellow card performance against the Galaxy. They've signed Clarence Goodson to help shore things up but he's away with the USMNT in preparation for the Gold Cup. Their full backs love to get forward and they're very effective at serving crosses but they're also capable of getting beat. Unless they tighten up, Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka will have ample room to counter.
Two more big pieces will also be missing from their offensive end as well. Chris Wondolowski and Marvin Chavez are away with the US and Honduras respectively. Needless to say, those are very important players for San Jose going forward. With Wondolowski gone, the Fire are likely to see some combination of Alan Gordon, Adam Jahn, and the consistently reckless and annoying Steven Lenhart up top.
Projected Line Ups
Tornaghi; Segares, Berry, Soumare, Anibaba; Duka, Larentowicz, Alex, Nyarko; Rolfe, Magee
Busch;Beitashour, Hernandez, Ring, Morrow; Salinas, Baca, Cronin, Martinez; Jahn, Lenhart
Mark Watson, the interim coach who took over when Frank Yallop and the 'Quakes parted ways will have some tough game day decisions to make. This will be the second of three games in seven days and depth will be tested. Nana Attakora has filled in for Bernardez this season but he is also missing due to a Gold Cup call up for Canada. They've used midfielder Brad Ring at center back so he's an option. Ramiro Corrales might even be a consideration to fill in. Ty Harden has played the position this year but he's out with an injury. Dan Gargan anyone?
Shea Salinas was outstanding against Los Angeles with a goal and two assists and he'll provide a solid test for Jalil Anibaba.
Chicago will be without Sean Johnson but the San Jose call ups more than offset that loss. Paolo Tornaghi is a capable replacement in the interim.
The Fire have had some time to recover from their own stretch of three games in one week so the first choice line up is likely to see the pitch even with a Sunday game coming up against Sporting Kansas City. Logan Pause is apparently still unavailable after suffering a back injury in a collision against Columbus.
The same Chris Penso who felt it was necessary to allow eight minutes of stoppage time in San Jose last season.
Fire centerbacks Austin Berry and Bakary Soumare appear to still be working out the kinks. Berry has committed a couple of careless turnovers but those types of errors shouldn't be expected to continue. Of more concern should be the frequency of good looks from headers, set pieces, and crosses that the Fire have allowed over the last several weeks-even during this eight match unbeaten run. Free headers can't be allowed against a San Jose club that is very dangerous in the box even without Wondolowski.
If the Fire can tighten up in back and limit the amount of crosses into Lenhart and Gordon this outcome should be a positive one. Keeping the Lenhart/Gordon duo from playing Crash Test Dummies with defenders is also key.
The Fire appear to be catching another club at a good time.
Fire 2 Earthquakes 0
The rest of the league (Wed/Thurs)
Toronto FC 1 Montreal 2
Sporting KC 3 Vancouver 1
Seattle 2 DC United 0
Real Salt Lake 2 Philadelphia 1
FC Dallas 2 Chivas USA 0
Colorado 1 New York 1
Los Angeles 2 Columbus 1
Season record 76/158
The updated league injury report has Steven Lenhart listed as OUT for this match.
OUT: Steven Kinney (R quad strain), Logan Pause (SI dysfunction)
OUT: Nana Attakora (concussion symptoms), Mike Fucito (R ankle fracture), Ty Harden (R hip surgery), Steven Lenhart (head contusion/laceration), Tommy Muller (lower back spasms)