The resurgent San Jose Earthquakes head to the nation’s capital this Saturday to take on the top team in the East in D.C. United. An improbable win or even a draw against the top team in the Eastern Conference would show the rest of the league that the Quakes didn’t just hit a hot spot in the season but are actually an improving soccer team. They are going to have to do it without Cristian Espinoza who will be serving a one-game suspension after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season in last weeks win against Toronto FC. Let’s see what they may be up against.
Manager: Ben Olsen
Stadium: Audi Field
If you’re going to be one of the best teams in the league you are going to need an excellent performance from your goalkeeper and so far this season Bill Hamid has delivered for D.C. United. Through the first 16 matches of the season, Hamid is tied with Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan for most clean sheets with seven each and leads the league in saves with 60. With Cristian Espinoza not being available to feed Chris Wondolowski and Co., the Quakes goalscorers are going to have to work harder than usual to get goals passed Hamid.
Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara, Marcos Pedroso
Lookup any defensive stats for Major League Soccer this season and chances are that you will see one of these names at the top of most of those lists. This group has been instrumental in helping Hamid become one of the better keepers in the league, blocking a league-leading 165 shots. Pedroso is the newest addition to the group after coming over from FC Dallas to bolster a battered group. He did not play on Wednesday in United’s midweek battle with Chicago Fire so he might get the call on Saturday.
Luciano Acosta, Russel Canouse, Paul Arriola
Arriola and Canouse are more defensively minded midfielders, so it falls on Luciano Acosta’s shoulders to be another attacker behind Rooney to boost the D.C. United attack unfortunately for Ben Olsen the 25-year-old Argentinian has yet to find his rhythm this season. Fortunately for Olsen, the Quakes are fourth in the league in goals conceded, and Acosta scored on Wednesday against Chicago. That being said the Quakes have only given up eight goals in their last seven matches which is much better than the start of the season when the Quakes gave up nine goals in their first three matches.
Wayne Rooney, Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodriguez
Technically Rooney plays the lone forward position in Olsen’s 4-2-3-1 scheme, but I am including Segura and Rodriguez in this section of the breakdown because the two wingers have an offensive-minded role also organizing it like this makes the article more symmetrical. Rooney leads D.C. in goals and is tied with Jara for the team lead in assists with both players sitting at 4 assists apiece so finding a way to neutralize him will be a significant factor if the Quakes want to have any success in the nation’s capital. Six of Rooney’s eight goals have come inside the 18-yard-box and the Quakes Daniel Vega has been one of the best keepers in the box this season so that will be an interesting matchup to watch. If the Quakes pay too much attention to the Englishman, it can allow players like Segura or Arriola room to roam, allowing them to find the weakness in the Quakes defense. Playing without Cristian Espinoza and Tommy Thompson is going to put more pressure on the Quakes defense, and while the Quakes won their first road match of the season last week, it’s going to take a significant effort to win two games in a row away from Avaya.