Coming home after playing four straight games on the road, the San Jose Earthquakes knew that their schedule wasn't going to get any easier. After all, in MLS, with its salary-cap imposed parity, every team in the league has a chance to win on Any Given Saturday.
But having not played at Avaya Stadium since a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 11 -- more than a month ago -- the Quakes were looking forward to a boost from the stands in their quest to keep in the top six in the Western Conference.
San Jose enters the weekend with 14 points from 10 games -- their opponent Columbus Crew SC has the same points from one fewer game -- and sits in a logjam at fourth place in the table. The Earthquakes have scored 10 goals and conceded 11 goals, and in no game have they won or lost by more than one goal, save a 2-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls.
One thing is certain: the Quakes defense will have its hands full with visiting Columbus on Saturday evening, kick off at 7:30 p.m. (Comcast Sports Net Plus, 1590 KLIV and 1370 KZSF, online on MLS Live). Crew SC has scored 15 goals this season and has created a league-best 13.0 scoring chances per game. Forward Kei Kamara, who was a member of the Earthquakes back in their 2008 rebirth season, is a co-leader, along with Seattle Sounders striker Clint Dempsey, on the MLS scoring chart with seven goals. Midfielder Federico Higuain is playing yet again at a Best-XI level for Columbus.
Do the Earthquakes stand a chance?
Head coach Dominic Kinnear, who knows a thing or two about Eastern Conference foes from his seasons coaching with the Houston Dynamo, says that won't provide him any advantages on Saturday when he goes up against Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter, so it will simply come down to how well his team is preparing following a sold week of training.
"When guys have been in the league for a while, no matter which conference, you get to know their strengths and weaknesses," said Kinnear on Friday.
The Earthquakes and Crew SC have played to four straight draws dating back to July of 2011. Two months prior to that, San Jose defeated Columbus 3-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium for its first win of the season. Chris Wondolowski scored the game winner that evening, and former Crew SC forward Steven Lenhart tacked on an insurance goal. Wondolowski leads the Earthquakes in scoring this season with 5 goals, but Lenhart has yet to play this season due to a lingering knee injury.
The Quakes will play another Eastern Conference foe next Sunday when they travel just north of Avaya Stadium to host the expansion Orlando City SC at Levi's Stadium. Then it is the third of three successive matches against the East when San Jose travels to new renovated BMO Field to face off against Toronto FC. As well as following along with all the action from Avaya Stadium live on television, the radio, or online, download the new FanKave app to your mobile device and join Earthquakes experts as they cover the match and provide exclusive insights and analysis. Plus, post your Quakes Pride photo and have a chance to win a FanKave gift pack.