Last week San Jose lost a tough Western Conference, Mid-table battle with potential playoff implications. This week? Another Western Conference, mid-table battle with potential playoff implications. This time the Earthquakes will be back on the road to face the Colorado Rapids with the chance to jump as high as 4th place with a win. A loss would push San Jose further away from a safe playoff position and start a losing streak at a very inopportune time.
San Jose's challenge will be finding bodies to play defense. A series of injuries have shelved center back Ike Opara and right backs Chris Leitch and Steven Beitashour and you will likely see a few players playing out of position in today's starting lineup. To address the lack of depth the Quakes traded for right back Tim Ward, though he is not expected to start tonight.
The good news for San Jose's makeshift back line is that Colorado has the weakest offensive attack in the Western Conference with just 19 goals in 17 games. It would also be a relief if Conor Casey, who leads the Rapids with 7 goals, is unable to play because of a concussion (he is currently listed as probable). But as iffy as Colorado's attack is, their defense is just as strong - bad news for a San Jose offense that has been struggling to create consistent, high quality chances of late. With two weak offenses and strong defenses goals will be at a premium. Their will be plenty of pressure on goalkeepers Jon Busch and Matt Pickens because just one goal conceded today may be enough to lose the game.
Players to watch:
Bobby Burling - With impressive rookie Ike Opara out the burden of organizing and leading the defense will likely fall to Burling, who has played well of late. How well he partners with Opara's replacement at center back, likely Brandon McDonald, will likely determine San Jose's success.
Pablo Mastroeni - The USMNT veteran is having a solid season for the rapids as a defensive midfielder. He will likely be battling with Joey Gjertsen and Sam Cronin and it's critical for San Jose's chances that they win the midfield battle and maintain some offensive possession. If they win those battles with Mastroeni San Jose should get the opportunity to create more chances for their strikers.