The San Jose Earthquakes completed their final training session at WVC yesterday ahead of their first regular season road game this Saturday in Chicago. With two weeks to prepare for the Fire, the Quakes spent the time shaking off the 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake with a series of intense workouts and scrimmages. Some new players were folded into the mix, while some of the regulars returned to full health. As the team gets ready for the flight to Chicago later today, Coach Frank Yallop knows he has a complete roster to choose from for his starters and substitutes.
How might the starting XI look for the Quakes as they take the field at Toyota Park? The strongest clues come from watching the Santa Clara University friendly Tuesday evening. The same group of 10 field players also spent time working together in passing drills Wednesday morning at WVC.
Ryan Johnson - Arturo Alvarez
Bobby Convey - Andre Luiz - Brandon McDonald - Joey Gjertsen
Ramiro Corrales - Ike Opara - Jason Hernandez - Steve Beitashour
Eduardo, who returned late from Brazil and missed the season opener, should make an appearance as a second half substitute according to Yallop. The remaining two subs are still up for debate.
Most noticeable in the projected line-up are the two rookies in the defensive four. While Opara has already played some significant minutes with the first team, Beitashour will be making his MLS debut in place of the suspended regular Chris Leitch. Cannon stated after training that he feels the rookies are more than capable to handle the Chicago Fire forward tandem of Collins John and Brian McBride. They will have to be at their best to prevent both from scoring for the second straight game when the meet on Saturday.
New forward Scott Sealy, who has not been officially signed by the team as they awaited the confirmation of Quincy Amarikwa's trade to Colorado and an open spot on the 24 man roster, has been training with the team this week. I do not expect he will see playing time this weekend; however, he will be in the mix for the Quakes U.S. Open Cup play-in game next Wednesday night against RSL. We'll look at the possibilities for that starting XI early next week.
Saturday's projected line-up did very well against Santa Clara, but the Fire will be a much tougher opponent. Whereas Andre Luiz found ample space as an attacking midfielder in that match, he will have to deal with Chicago's favored midfield diamond formation this time around. The Quakes will probably need to return to advancing the ball through the wings into the attacking third, putting the onus on Convey and Gjersten to come through. While Gjertsen rated highly in the second half of the RSL game, Convey was unceremoniously substituted at the interval. The Chicago game provides his first chance at redemption for his otherwise lackluster opening day performance. The effectiveness of both wingers along with Andre Luiz will go a long way toward determining how successful the Quakes are on Saturday.
What about new goalkeeper Jon Busch? Unless Cannon comes up injured, Busch will have to wait his turn to show his former team what they are missing, as he is expected to be on the substitutes' bench. He is fitting in very well with the club so far, and is a strong candidate to make the start next Wednesday.