Nearly 20 years to the day of the inaugural MLS game, the San Jose Earthquakes and DC United will lace it up for an Anniversary celebration that two decades ago seemed only a dream.
The Quakes were known as the Clash back in 1996, and the Bay Area's MLS team featured U.S. men's national team stars Eric Wynalda and John Doyle. The mercurial Wynalda would curl home a late winner that sunny San Jose afternoon to give the Clash a 1-0 win, but DC United would has the last laugh as the Capitol's club hoisted the first ever MLS Cup championship to end the season.
The Quakes and United have since combined for six MLS Cups and numerous other accolades, though neither has seen much success as of late. To start the 2016 season, DC United remains winless in four attempts; the Earthquakes ran off two wins to start the campaign, but were blitzed by the Galaxy in LA in their last game. Will Saturday's match be as cagey as that 1-0 game twenty years ago?
San Jose built up its roster in the off-season with the expressed goal of having enough depth to weather to tough time this season. Injuries and suspensions are going to put that depth to the test against DC United, as starting central midfielders Anibal Godoy and Simon Dawkins will not feature for the Quakes -- Godoy was injured while on international duty with Panama and Dawkins will serve a one game suspension for a red card earned against the Galaxy.
Stepping up will be second-year midfielder Fatai Alashe, who missed the start of the season, but has quickly moved his fitness level to match-fit over the past few weeks. Dynamic midfielder Matias Perez Garcia is likely to partner with Alashe to start against DC.
Chris Wondolowski will be available, as he spent the international break with the U.S. men's national team, though he did not make an appearance in two World Cup qualifying matches. Wondo, who was in the stands at Spartan Stadium to witness the Clash's 1-0 win over United back in 1996, has scored three goals in three games to start the 2016 season. His partner up top will be the team's resident bulldog, Quincy Amarikwa.
A big question mark for the Quakes will be who makes the starting four on defense. Clarence Goodson is expected to be back at centerback after being a late scratch against the Galaxy with a back injury. Victor Bernardez will be in there too, with Andres Imperiale the first possible substitute off the bench. At one outside back will be Marvell Wynne, and at the other possibly Shaun Francis. Rookie Kip Colvey and newly acquired Kofi Sarkodie fill in on the bench.
While the Earthquakes had last weekend off, DC United faced FC Dallas at home last Saturday and were embarrassed 3-0 by the defending Western Conference regular season champions. Flashy forward Fabian Espindola leads the Black and Red to Avaya Stadium, and former California defender and rising national team star Steven Birnbaum anchors the back line for DC.
Last season, San Jose beat United 2-0 on the road during its August resurgence. Wondolowski and Shea Salinas tallied for the Quakes that evening at JFK Stadium.
Kick-off for the MLS 20th Anniversary Game is 7:30 p.m., and the Quakes will honor members of the 1996 Clash in a halftime ceremony. The first 10,000 fans in attendance at Avaya Stadium will receive a commemorative Clash jersey inspired t-shirt.
Projected Starting Line-up: San Jose Earthquakes vs. DC United