After just four days off the Quakes head home to face the Chicago Fire in another matchup against a mid-table team from the Eastern Conference. Through a scheduling quirk San Jose has played two fewer games than every other team above them in the Western Conference standings, so this mid-week clash gives San Jose an opportunity to move up while their rivals are idle. If San Jose can win both games in hand a 3rd place finish in the Western Conference isn’t out of the question. But to do so they will undoubtedly have to beat struggling teams like Chicago.
The Fire are mired in a seven game winless streak and have only managed to score one goal in the month of September. The Fire do have some interesting players, including American legend and iron man Brian McBride, still playing soccer at 38 years of age. McBride has announced that he will retire at the end of the year, thus ending the career of what must surely be the greatest striker ever to play for the Red, White and Blue. That’s reason enough to watch tomorrow’s game.
In addition to McBride the Fire boast two designated players – Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and Mexican striker Nery Castillo. Despite the star power Castillo and Ljungberg have yet to create a more dangerous Chicago attack – neither player has scored in their combined 14 starts for the Fire. And it’s possible that neither star will play. Castillo has a left quadriceps strain and didn’t make the trip to San Jose, while Ljungberg also has a nagging injury that might prevent him from starting. With Chicago all but eliminated from the playoff race there may be little incentive for the Fire to play their best anyway.
This game will also serve as Jon Busch’s first chance to match up against his former team on the field. Busch was let go by the Fire just prior to the season opener as a salary dump but did not play when San Jose travelled to Chicago for the second game of the year. With Joe Cannon’s injury Busch has played a key role as a backup that is just as good as the starter.
Players to watch:
Marco Pappa – Despite Chicago’s star power, Pappa has still been Chicago’s most productive offensive player as an attacking midfielder. With Nery and perhaps Ljungberg out the burden to create will probably fall even heavier upon Pappa and Brian McBride
Chris Wondolowski – Wondo was briefly overshadowed in San Jose’s attack with the sudden signings of Khari Stephenson and Geovanni. But his excellent recent form and Saturday’s hat trick reminded Earthquake fans what he can do. Look for him to continue creating problems for the opposition’s defense and finding opportunities with his work rate and impressive ability to be in the right place at the right time.