Earthquakes look to tight defense vs. Rapids (Jul 29, 2017)

BY AP • July 28, 2017

If the San Jose Earthquakes are going to make a playoff push in the second half of the season, they'll need to focus on their defense.

The Earthquakes, who host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Avaya Stadium, have been outscored 12-3 in their past three MLS matches, all on the road.

"We're playing to try and get the first goal, that's for darn sure," San Jose coach Chris Leitch said after Sunday's 3-0 loss at Seattle. "I think defensively, we have enough cover back there to withstand the opposition's attack. But when you don't get the first goal, it makes it tough for sure.

"I thought defensively, look, (Seattle is) dangerous in transition. But I thought we did a decent enough job to slow down that transition. You look at their goals, there were two off set pieces and one off more a mistake on us."

The Earthquakes are 1-3 in MLS play since Leitch replaced former coach Dominic Kinnear at the end of June.

Looking to shore up the backline, San Jose recently signed Swiss center back Francois Affolter.

"Having Francois join the club midseason will give us an injection of experience, having played at a high level, and technical ability," Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli told the team's website. "He is a tall, aggressive central defender that will surely boost the club as we push towards the postseason. We can consider ourselves fortunate to have a player of his caliber want to join us as a free agent over other clubs that had interest in him from Europe."

Saturday's game is the first of two at home, where San Jose is 5-1-4; the Earthquakes are just 2-8-1 on the road.

"We've got two home games coming up here and we're just outside of the playoffs," midfielder Shea Salinas said. "I think now is the time where we've really got to stick together as a team. We can't point fingers, we've got to look at ourselves and see what we can do better individually. I think that'll give us the push we need to make the playoffs here."

The Earthquakes (7-9-5) sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, just below the playoff cut line.

Colorado (6-11-2) has scored a Western Conference-worst 20 goals and is winless on the road. But the Rapids are coming off a surprising 1-1 draw with league-leading Toronto.

Colorado's Dominique Badji stunned the Toronto crowd with his 76th-minute equalizer, and the Rapids gained their first road point of 2017.

Badji sees the breakthrough as a building block for the rest of the season.

"We see this second half of the season as a new slate," Badji said after the game. "Forget everything (from) the first half; it's a whole new season. (We must) have that mentality going forward. This is a great way to start, with a point on the road."

The Rapids will return home to host Vancouver on Aug. 5, while San Jose takes on Columbus.



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