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San Jose Earthquakes continue MLS regular season preparations with Portland tournament

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Khari Stephenson looks to get it going against his former club side AIK of Sweden as the San Jose Earthquakes continue play in the Portland Tournament.
Khari Stephenson looks to get it going against his former club side AIK of Sweden as the San Jose Earthquakes continue play in the Portland Tournament.

With the start of the MLS regular season less than ten days away, the San Jose Earthquakes continue making strides toward their March 10 home opener against the New England Revolution. Currently training in Portland and participating in a preseason tournament, head coach Frank Yallop and his coaching staff have been narrowing down the list of players that will feature against the Revs. Last Monday evening, a look at coach Yallop’s potential Starting XI heading into the season was unveiled in a match against the Portland Timbers.

In front of over 16,000 Timbers fans — and this was only a preseason game — the Earthquakes polished off a rough-and-tumble 1-1 draw with Portland. After conceding a wonderful goal from Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan in the 15th minute, the Earthquakes again found themselves this preseason looking up at a deficit on the scoreboard. The team rallied, and for many spells of the first hand were certainly the team on the ascendency. However, an equalizer never materialized, as a focus on controlling the ball led to an increase in possession advantage over the Timbers, execution on goal in the attacking third was sparse.

The second half opened in much the same manner, and it appeared that it was only a matter of time before the Earthquakes would find the back of the net. The forward line of Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski were growing in comfort with each other and in the 59th minute, the pair contributed to San Jose’s equalizer. Following a drive down the right wing, Wondolowski whipped the ball into the six-yard box into the path of the advancing Lenhart, and the ball was clipped into the goal by Timbers defender Hanyer Mosquera. Whether or not Lenhart would have finished the cross in a similar manner was unclear, but the own-goal was a just reward for an Earthquakes side that was pressing forward with purpose.

Notable in the line-up was defender Justin Morrow, who was asked to play out of position as a centerback. The third year defender normally lines up as a left back and is the back-up to regular starter Ramiro Corrales. With regular centerbacks Jason Hernandez (injury) and Ike Opara (USMNT U-23 training camp) unavailable, Morrow played solidly alongside offseason acquisition Victor Bernardez in the heart of the Earthquakes defense. Barring a move to bring in more depth at the centerback position, Morrow may find his was into the regular season line-up as coach Yallop’s fourth choice behind Opara, Bernardez, and Hernandez.

Up next for the Earthquakes is a match against Swedish club AIK on March 1 at 5 p.m. from Jeld-Wen Field in Portland. Originally the match was not scheduled to be available for viewing, but the efforts of the San Jose Earthquakes to bring more exposure to their fans has resulted in a live stream of the game making its way to a computer screen near you. With another preseason friendly scheduled on Sunday against Chivas USA, today’s match against AIK will likely feature a number of different starters than played against the Timbers on Monday.