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Quakes must win Saturday

With nine games to go and the ‘Quakes still out of the playoff picture, every game, especially every home game, gets tagged “Must Win,” but that label fits pretty well this Saturday when Kansas City comes to town.

DC United and Houston are next up at Buck Shaw, much tougher competition than a club currently further from a playoff spot than San Jose is (5 points v 4). Kansas City won’t go down easy, but if San Jose is serious about moving up the table, they’ll need to get something out of this game.

It is, after all, a home game. After the Quakes’ 4-0 win over New England, Revolution defender Chris Albright joined a growing MLS chorus in calling Buck Shaw “a tough place to play.” “It’s like going away in college,” Albright said, “and you’ve got freshman screaming at you in the front row. It’s good. It’s a good atmosphere here.”

Maybe a little too good. Quakes’ season ticket holders already know the news: “Per league security issues, the San Jose Earthquakes have been requested to relocate the player benches to the West side of Buck Shaw Stadium. The Earthquakes are also adding bench shields to protect the team and coaching staff.”

Chalk one up for the 1906ers, who can add the memo to their trophy case, along with Khano Smith’s Gatorade bottle.

Game note of the week: The Wizards leading scorer is ex-Quake Jimmy Conrad. Yes, Jimmy Conrad, the defender. While you’re laughing, please note that his current tally of five goals is more than any Quake has scored, either.

Game note #2: the loss of Ramiro Corrales means it’s Kelly Gray or Ned Grabavoy stepping into the midfield. I was talking to another soccer scribe the other day, and we agreed Corrales was a serious candidate for Quakes MVP so far (though the nine games left on the schedule gives the Huckerbys of the world time to write a different story). Corrales has done a lot of work for the Quakes this year, so it won’t be easy as some might think to fill his role on the field.

When not sweating out late goals by my beloved Liverpool (and reading terms like “shambolic” describing their recent play), watching MLS, or checking Olympic men and Women’s soccer, in my spare time I’ve been enjoying watching the US Men in World Cup qualifying. Here’s the US Team’s dilemma: they win a game in Guatemala for the first time in 20 years, (and win a WC qualifier there for the first time ever) and everyone says “so what? It’s just CONCACAF.”

Expectations are high, and patience is low among US fans.

I liked the Guatemala game, though maybe the US should get some anger management training or something to keep from picking up yellow cards. Bocanegra took his goal well, a no doubt finish on a sweet Beasley corner kick. Tim Howard is looking like a #1 keeper. And even the TV folks did well. With a baseball game running long, ESPN had the start of the game over on ESPN Classic, pre-empting American Gladiators for the first 10 minutes. Thank you, guys.

Eddie Lewis, who took a solid knock in that game, is back in MLS, and I’m happy to see the ex-Quake back in the league. He’ll help LA, giving them someone on the left to balance Beckham a bit. Maybe they’ll start winning 4-3 instead of losing 3-2. Good news for Quakes fans is that LA looks like a USL also-ran when the Big Stars are away, and World Cup qualifying matches are sprinkled throughout September and October.

Next up for the US: Sept 6 in Cuba, then back to Toyota Park Sept 10 vs T&T.

Also glad to see Dave Sarachan back in the league. The 2003 MLS Coach of the Year (with Chicago) knows the league, knows how to coach, and will be a help to Il Bruce down in LA. I’m old enough to remember Sarachan as a player, wayyyyyy back in 1978, when he played in the inaugural year of the Major Indoor Soccer League with the Pittsburgh Spirit.

Ouch. Hurt my neck looking back that far. See you at the game Saturday.