"You win some and you lose some," so the saying goes. But for the San Jose Earthquakes, when playing on the road in MLS, the saying becomes "You tie some and you lose some." In their first eight away games to start so far in 2016, the Quakes are 0-4-4.
Will that change this weekend against the Chicago Fire, who the Earthquakes visit on Friday for a nationally televised game on UniMas? San Jose has been without its leading scorer for the last four games, as Chris Wondolowski played for the U.S. men's national team in the recently concluded Copa America Centenario. Wondo has seven goals for the Quakes this season -- next on the list is Alberto Quintero with three -- and his offensive contributions have been missed.
"He's an important person in the locker room and on the field," said head coach Dominic Kinnear, "so to have him back here after a successful run in the Copa America is good for us."
Wondolowski will be paired at forward with Quincy Amarikwa, who joined the Earthquakes via trade last summer from the Fire. This will be the first game for the bruising forward against his former team, something that hasn't really resonated as much of a homecoming for the 28-year-old.
"There's nothing there really," said Amarikwa with a chuckle. "I've played against a lot of former clubs. It's part of the game and I am used to it by now. It is what it is. If allowed playing against particular people and teams on any particular day to sway how I was going to come out an approach a particular game, I wouldn't be where I am today. It's important to never be too high or too low, and to focus on the task at hand."
While the prognosis on the attacking side of the ball looks promising, injuries to the back line have severely depleted the Earthquakes center back corps at a critical point in the season. Clarence Goodson and Andres Imperiale were already out with injuries, but now Victor Bernardez has been added to the unavailable list. Prior to being substituted out against the LA Galaxy last Saturday, Bernardez had played every minute of the season. Kinnear will be forced to use a makeshift lineup at center back, moving right fullback Marvell Wynne and central midfielder Fatai Alashe into those positions.
"Our lineup will look similar to the way it was on Saturday after Victor's substitution," said Kinnear. "Chris will be playing, but the rest will look very similar."
The mixed news for the Earthquakes won't take away from their status as the favorites in tonight's match, kick-off at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time from Toyota Park, as the Fire have been struggling mightily this season. In 14 games, Chicago has collected only 11 points -- worst in MLS -- and they have scored only 14 goals over that span. The Fire did beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in U.S. Open Cup action midweek, something that did get Kinnear's attention.
"They looked pretty solid and dangerous going forward with David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike," warned Kinnear. "Defensively, they have been solid all year. They just haven't scored all that many goals to make them win games."
Kinnear is wise to be wary of the Fire, especially since he knows how difficult it can be to win on the road in MLS. Amarikwa echoed his coach's statements about not underestimating what Chicago can do in Friday's game. Still it seems very much that the Earthquakes are playing the Fire at just the right time, and as forward Chad Barrett posted on Twitter, nothing but a victory is an acceptable result.
How to Watch:
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire
Friday, July 1, 2016
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois
Kickoff at 7:00 p.m. local time, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time
TV Broadcast: UniMas
Streaming Online: MLS LIVE and Univision NOW