It’s do or die time for the “Never Say Die” San Jose Earthquakes as they make their first visit to Rio Tinto Stadium of the season to face Real Salt Lake. The Quakes won their previous match-up with RSL in June at Avaya Stadium via goals from Danny Hoesen and Marco Urena. Despite the Quakes dominating the match, RSL is a changed team with a 3-1-3 record over their previous seven games. Currently the RSL is just four points behind San Jose for seventh place in the West, and a win would put Salt Lake back into the playoff hunt. Quakes Head Coach Chris Leitch will be looking for his first road win; he currently has a 0-5-0 road record with a -12 goal differential.
Nick Lima and Flo Jungwirth are both listed as “questionable” on the MLS injury report. While Flo’s shoulder injury might sideline him for the remainder of the week, Quakes Head Coach Chris Leitch expected Lima to be ready to play. Rumors abound about the missing Simon Dawkins, who hasn’t seen the game-day 18 in several weeks, and probably won’t see it tonight (truth be told, I’d be surprised if Dawkins is ever seen in a San Jose uniform again). Cato is another wild-card that’s been missing from the San Jose lineups, and probably will not be in tonight’s lineup.
The Quakes rested more than a few players last week in their draw versus the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, including the RSL goal-scoring duo of Hoesen and Urena. Expect the 3-5-2 with Andrew Tarbell with in goal as David Bingham’s inconsistency probably cost him the starting position going forward. On the backline, the Quakes don’t have much with which to work as Jungwirth is out, which probably will give the nod to Andres Imperiale, Victor Bernardez, and Francois Affolter (Affolter had a lot of room for improvement last game, and may be the weak link in the Quakes defense). In the midfield, Nick Lima and Shea Salinas should start as the wingbacks with Anibal Godoy playing the #6 position. On the attack, Vako and should see the XI with either Tommy Thompson or Jahmir Hyka. Up top, while Hoesen is the obvious choice to start given his success last game versus RSL, Chris Leitch may be too timid to replace Urena with Hoesen, especially with playoffs on the line, thus Urena and Wondo would be the safest bet to start with Hoesen coming in as a sub if needed.
Real Salt Lake should have the services of Kyle Beckerman, who missed the last match versus San Jose due to international call-ups. Nick Rimando will be in goal with four defenders on the back line: Chris Wingert, Justin Glad, Marcelo Silva, and Tony Beltran. Beckerman should be in charge of advancing the ball in a double-pivot 4-2 with Sunny. Offensively, DP Yura Movissyan should start up top with Joao Pedro, Albert Rusnak, and Luis Silva as the attacking mids.
Final Score Prediction
RSL’s home record (4-4-4) is the second-worst in the West. However, the Quakes’ road record (2-9-1) is nothing to write home about. RSL is already making their push for the playoffs with their impressive 12 points over the previous seven games–by comparison the Quakes have seven points over their previous seven games.
Imperiale has been Mr. Hyde on the road, and Affolter allowed the Philadelphia Union to come away with points in San Jose. With those two players in the lineup, and Flo Jungwirth missing, I’m guessing RSL scores at least two goals at home.
Can the Quakes score more than two to pull out a win? San Jose has yet to score more than two goals on the road all season, and has only scored seven goals in 12 road games for an egregiously low 0.58 goals-per-game average in 2017. With RSL on the ascent, and Chris Leitch sporting an atrocious road record, any points would be an impressive feat at Rio Tinto. As such, San Jose appears to be a team in turmoil, and probably will lose 2-1.
But then again, that’s why they play the game. Go, Quakes!!