Preview: Whitecaps FC looking to shake up the Western Conference against San Jose Earthquakes

Push for the playoffs continues on the road at San Jose

VANCOUVER, BC – Buck Shaw Stadium will play host to a massive Western Conference matchup on Saturday when Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-10L-7D) visit San Jose Earthquakes (10W-11L-7D) in Santa Clara, California.

Kickoff for Saturday's match between San Jose Earthquakes and Whitecaps FC is set for 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet West, and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.

With 37 points apiece, Vancouver and San Jose currently sit seventh and eighth respectively in the immensely tight Western Conference playoff race, though the ‘Caps have one game in hand. They’re three points shy of FC Dallas and five points outside the playoff picture.

Saturday's contest will be the third and final meeting between Vancouver and San Jose this season. Whitecaps FC will look to keep their undefeated record against the Quakes this season intact, as they currently lead the season series with a 1W-0L-1D record. They’re also undefeated in their last four meetings against the California outfit.

Last match: FC Dallas 3-1 Whitecaps FC

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps are coming off a heartbreaking loss to FC Dallas last Saturday, where they saw a 1-1 deadlock get broken wide open through two goals by the Red Stripes in the last three minutes of regular time.

It wasn’t the result they were hoping for, but the ‘Caps got off to a dream start when midfielder Daigo Kobayashi opened the scoring in the fourth minute. However, FC Dallas were quick to respond. The home team knotted things up just minutes later thanks to a brilliant strike from just outside the box by Je-Vaughn Watson.

The ‘Caps then came apart late as they conceded two goals dying stages of the match, including a potential Goal of the Year by Jair Benitez from almost 50 yards out.

Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie will be looking to get his team back on track this weekend and it may be the perfect week to do just that. The Blue and White picked up their last victory against San Jose when they won 2-0 in front of a rocking crowd August 10 at BC Place.

They should also receive a boost from the return of midfielder Russell Teibert and striker Darren Mattocks, who are both expected to be available for selection after spending time with their respective national teams. 

Meanwhile, centre back Brad Rusin (right ankle sprain) returned to full training this week and is inching closer towards a return. The status of Jay DeMerit is unclear, however, as Rennie admitted earlier in the week that “he’s not ready yet.” The 33-year-old centre back was an unused substitute last Saturday against Dallas.

Last match: SJ Earthquakes 1-0 Philadelphia Union

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

It has been tough to figure out the identity of the Earthquakes during this final stretch of the MLS regular season, as they have rotated results in their last five matches with a 2W-2L-1D record.

However, it’s at Buck Shaw Stadium where the ‘Quakes have done most of their damage. San Jose have collected more home points than any other MLS team this season and are riding a 13-match home undefeated streak in league play. They have also posted a 6W-0L-0D record at home since Vancouver native Mark Watson took over as interim head coach.

The Quakes are coming off a huge victory against Philadelphia Union last Sunday where they got up early and held on to pick up an important three points and stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race.

Former Whitecaps FC midfielder Shea Salinas gave the ‘Quakes an early lead with a Goal of the Week nominee in the 15th minute. Things took a dramatic turn in the 57th minute when Rafael Baca was ejected after he was shown his second yellow card of the contest for going in studs first against Union striker Conor Casey. The Quakes weathered the late storm and barely escaped with a season-saving victory.

It proved to be a costly match, however, as the Quakes lost Baca (red card) and striker Steven Lenhart (yellow card accumulation) to suspension. Both players will be unavailable this weekend against Vancouver.

Watson’s side will also be without the services of Nana Attakora (concussion like symptoms), Mehdi Ballouchy (right ACL tear), Ty Harden (right hip surgery), Tommy Muller (lower back spasms), Marcus Tracy (right knee inflammation), and Mike Fucito (right ankle fracture).

August 10, 2013: Whitecaps FC 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This Saturday’s matchup will be the eighth meeting between Whitecaps FC and San Jose Earthquakes in MLS regular season competition. Whitecaps FC hold the edge with a 3W-1L-3D overall record. They’re a 0W-1L-2D on the road.

In their last meeting, the Blue and White won 2-0 against San Jose Earthquakes in front of 20,151 fans at BC Place. Strikers Camilo and Kenny Miller scored a pair of second-half goals and Nigel Reo-Coker had one of his best games of the season, chipping with two of his four assists on the season.

Among the player connections, Salinas played for Whitecaps FC in 2011 after being selected eighth overall in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft. Salinas was traded from Vancouver to San Jose on Nov. 30, 2011. Salinas was also teammates with ʻCaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton and defender Jordan Harvey for Philadelphia Union.

Additionally, Earthquakes defender Nana Attakora was in the Canadian national squad for matches against USA and Denmark in 2013 alongside Whitecaps FC players Simon Thomas and Teibert. Attakora even trained with Whitecaps FC last August.

NEXT UP

Saturday’s Western Conference tilt is the second of a three-match road trip for Whitecaps FC. The Blue and White will then be travelling back to Canada to challenge Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo to wrap up the road swing. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. PT.