On an afternoon with a weather prediction more worthy of Christmas than Easter, the San Jose Earthquakes host Real Salt Lake at sold-out Avaya Stadium this Sunday. The Quakes have split their four games so far this season -- two wins and two losses -- while RSL is unbeaten in three games in 2015 with a win and a pair of losses to their credit.
San Jose played its worst half of soccer last Saturday against the New England Revolution, giving up two goals prior to halftime before nearly coming back in the second half of a 2-1 loss in Foxborough. Chris Wondolowski scored the lone goal for the Quakes, a penalty kick conversion, to take his team leading total to three this season. Wondolowski now has 96 goals in his MLS career -- 89 since the start of the 2010 season.
Real Salt Lake was missing many of its stars last weekend as they battled for a 2-1 win over visiting Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. Homegrown player Jordan Allen netted the game winning goal for RSL and is potentially in line to start against the Quakes as Sebastian Jaime is out with a broken bone injury. Holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman and playmaker Javier Morales are both expected to start on Sunday against San Jose.
"They've been together for quite awhile," said Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear. "They've kept the core of the team together. A lot of it keys around Morales and his movement, getting free and getting on the ball. Whenever he gets the ball, we have to put pressure on him. You can't let him have free reign to look up and pick a pass."
In 22 all-time meetings between San Jose and Real Salt Lake, the Quakes have 7 wins, 8 losses, and 7 ties. Kinnear recognizes that the mystic of RSL as a team that can dazzle opponents with its emphasis on possession is well founded, but he also believes that his guys will be ready to stand toe-to-toe with their Western Conference foe.
"We are not coming here to sit in and watch them and admire their play," said Kinnear. "We know they are good players, and you have to show respect for these players, but on the other side you have to have belief in yourself and what you are doing. Our intention is to step out on the field and pressure them as soon as they get the ball."
The Earthquakes made their season debut at Avaya Stadium two weekends ago in a nationally televised game against the Chicago Fire -- a 2-1 win for the Quakes in the first-ever MLS game at their new stadium -- and they'll get to make it a second successive TV game when they take on Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 2:00 p.m. Pacific time (5:00 p.m. Eastern), and it will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Viewers who would like to watch the game streaming online should check out the Watch ESPN app. For insights and analysis during the game, download the FanKave app to your smartphone and follow along with a bevy of Earthquakes experts. A replay will be available on MLS Live 24-48 hours after the conclusion of the match.
Following the match, the Earthquakes will host an Easter Egg Hunt at the Avaya Stadium epicenter fanzone as a fundraiser for the family of slain San Jose Police Department officer Michael Johnson. Details on how to participate in the event are available at the club's official website.