SAN JOSE, Calif. – With the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake set to wrestle for control of the Western Conference standings for a third time in less than three months (Saturday, 7:30 pm PT on CSN California), San Jose star Chris Wondolowski would like to propose a side bet with his Utah guests.
“If we both play the way that we have been playing and play the way that we are capable of playing, I think that we might have to run through each other again,” Wondolowski said at training this week. “If they want to make a deal, we’ll give them this one if they’ll give us the one in the playoffs. I’m alright with that.”
Presumably, Commissioner Don Garber and the rest of the folks at MLS headquarters aren’t down with Wondolowski’s swap-meet plan, so the Quakes will instead try to beat the law of averages and finish a three-game sweep of RSL on Saturday night. San Jose won 3-1 at home on April 21, and 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 23.
“Here we are again,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “We’ve got a chance of getting a gap between us and them and they have a chance of overtaking us. It’s a big game.”
A San Jose win would put them four points clear of Salt Lake, with a game in hand. An RSL victory would vault them back atop the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield tables.
In the first two meetings, it was San Jose who were chasing down Jason Kries’ side. Yallop doesn’t see the reversal of roles changing anything on the pitch.
“There’s no difference, no,” Yallop said. “You can’t pick and choose when you play well. I don’t look at it as, ‘We have to beat them’ and, ‘It’s 3-0 against a good team.’ I don’t ever look at it that way. We’ve just got to beat another team at home on Saturday, if we can.”
That said, going 3-0 against one of the West’s other top contenders would pack an emotional punch beyond the nine-point swing in the standings.
“[It would be] a big, big confidence boost,” said Quakes captain Ramiro Corrales, who won’t get a chance to participate after picking up a red card last weekend. “Obviously, they’re one of the better teams in the league, that’s why they’re one point behind us. I mean, they’re a handful. I think it’s going to be a battle Saturday. I’m very disappointed I won’t be a part of that, but I think the guys can do the job.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.