Real Salt Lake-Earthquakes Preview
The San Jose Earthquakes have locked up their star after winning
the franchise’s second Supporters’ Shield.
Real Salt Lake is preaching patience as it begins the new season
with plenty of road games after losing some familiar faces.
Reigning league MVP Chris Wondolowski and the Earthquakes
dominated Real Salt Lake in three 2012 matchups heading into Sunday
night’s opener at Buck Shaw Stadium.
San Jose (19-6-9) finished with a league-high 66 points last
year to earn its first Supporters’ Shield since 2005. The
Earthquakes were led by Wondolowski, who scored 27 goals to tie the
league record set by Tampa Bay’s Roy Lassiter in 1996.
Wondolowski was re-signed Tuesday, becoming the second San Jose
player to take a designated player spot. He’s the first player to
lead MLS in goals for three straight years.
“As my hometown team, I couldn’t be more excited to sign a
designated player contract with the Earthquakes,” Wondolowski told
the team’s official website. “These last few years have been
amazing and I look forward to continuing my career in San
San Jose’s season ended on a bitter note after falling 3-2 on
aggregate to eventual MLS Cup champion Los Angeles in the Western
Conference semifinals. The Earthquakes, though, are now among the
league’s elite after finishing in sixth place or worse in each of
their previous four seasons.
“It’s obviously a quality, quality team, the Supporters’ Shield
winner for a reason,” Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said. “They
were really strong last year and a very, very good home team and a
team that never said die.”
Kreis has a major rebuilding effort on his hands after his team
finished nine points behind San Jose for second place in the West
before being eliminated 1-0 on aggregate by Seattle in the
Salt Lake (17-11-6) has parted ways with mainstays Fabian
Espindola, Jamison Olave and Will Johnson. Regular starters Javier
Morales, Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert are all injured to begin
2013 for RSL, which plays five of its first seven matches away from
“I think the word that needs to be said over and over again will
be patience,” Kreis said. “This will be a different looking Real
Salt Lake team. I do not believe we are going to come out of the
chutes and put ourselves in first place after the first five or six
weeks like we have done in the past two seasons.”
RSL will look for stability from captain Kyle Beckerman, who
will become the 20th player in MLS history to make 300
regular-season appearances Sunday. Alvaro Saborio should continue
to be a major threat after finishing fourth in MLS with 17 goals in
San Jose outscored RSL 10-2 in winning all three meetings last
season, with Wondolowski providing half of its goals. RSL finished
one contest with nine players and another with 10.
“I think the key for us for this match will be can we keep 11
players on the field to start with, because last year we couldn’t
manage to do that at their place,” Kreis said. “If we can start
there, that will be a decided improvement automatically.”
San Jose coach Frank Yallop will use newcomer Mike Fucito at
forward alongside Wondolowski since Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart
are both injured.