SANTA CLARA, CA - JUNE 04: Steven Lenhart #24 of the San Jose Earthquakes is congratulated by Steven Beitashour #33 of the San Jose Earthquakes after he scored a goal against the Houston Dynamo at Buck Shaw Stadium on June 4, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The second of two must win homes games in a single week is tomorrow night against the San Jose Earthquakes, a team that the Portland Timbers are currently winless against. That's right, those of you who think far back to the Timbers short lived U.S. Open Cup run will remember that the San Jose Earthquakes actually came to Jeld-Wen Field and beat the Timbers for the first time at home. They then drew the Timbers at Buck Shaw earlier this year.
Luckily, I was able to sit down and discuss San Jose's recent performances and players with Robert Jonas of Quake, Rattle and Goal:
Stumptown Footy: So the San Jose Earthquakes have been on a pretty bad stretch of games. What do you attribute to the recent run of form?
Robert: Basically, the Earthquakes have struggled mightily to create scoring opportunities in the absence of a true target forward. In modifying the team's strategy, head coach Frank Yallop is still trying to find a combination that can create opportunities in other ways. That shift in tactics has not yet yielded the desired results.
SF: Has Wondolowski not been performing as he was last year up top?
Robert: Wondo's playing much the same this season as last, but his conversion rate has taken a dramatic fall. Looking at total shots and shots on goal -- a category Wondo is at or near the top of in MLS this year -- he is actually at a higher rate than 2010, but his conversions have gone from close to 50% to under 30%.
SF: Is the service just not there? Who usually would be supplying Wondo and the other strikers with their runs?
Robert: The service to Wondolowski is there, but the support at the second forward position is not. What makes him effective is getting into spaces between defenders, which is easy they are forced to deal with other threats. When Steven Lenhart left to team due to personal reasons in July, that "distraction" up top was lost, and Wondo became the chief focus of defenders. He has had some troubles adjusting to that increased man-marking defensive style.
SF: So the San Jose Earthquakes have quite the path to get into the play-offs. Is it time to focus on next season? Or is
Robert: The coaching staff will say that there is hope until the team is mathematically eliminated. However, they are already starting to integrate in some of the younger players that look to have a future with the club -- defenders Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow, and midfielder Rafael Baca have all secured starting roles as of late. Realistically, with the number of teams between the Quakes and a playoff spot seemingly increasing by the week, the hopes are on serious life support that this team will see postseason soccer.
SF: Projected starting line up?
Robert: I talked to coach Yallop earlier today, and he indicated that he is prepared to send out a very similar starting XI as faced Houston. The one change comes with the improved health of Morrow, who will likely push Ramiro Corrales into the midfield. To make way for the team captain, Joey Gjertsen is most likely headed to the bench.
Once again big thanks to Robert for taking the time.
Tomorrow's match kicks off at 7:30 PM at Jeld Wen Field on KPDX TV... I'm not sure what channel that is.