Benji LAFC

The San Jose Earthquakes will travel to Southern California to face Los Angeles Football Club on Saturday, Oct. 16 at Banc of California Stadium. 

Saturday’s game will mark the third and final match between both clubs in 2021. The Quakes extended their winning streak against LAFC to four with a pair of victories at PayPal Park on Aug. 8 (2-1) and Sept. 25 (2-0) earlier this year. Saturday’s match will be San Jose’s first visit to Banc of California Stadium since Sept. 27, 2020, in which the Quakes earned their first-ever win over LAFC.

LAFC (34 pts.) are currently ninth in the Western Conference standings, and just one point ahead of San Jose (33). In addition to a losing streak against San Jose, the So Cal side are winless in their last four matches (0-3-1). Despite LAFC’s latest results, Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda still believes they are a dangerous opponent with a potent attack. Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday, Almeyda says San Jose needs to give more than 100 percent in order to bring home a positive result from Banc of California Stadium.

“In general, we have lost more games than we have won against LAFC,” Almeyda said. “I think they are one the best teams in the league and also have one of the best styles of football. They’re one of the best teams to identify young talent. They have one of the best players in the world which is Carlos Vela. We know we need to be at 200 percent when we face LAFC. They are always even and open matches, but they are one the best teams in the league.”

LAFC Designated Player Carlos Vela suffered an injury against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Aug. 21 and has missed LAFC’s last eight matches as result. However, Vela has returned to training with his club, raising the possibility of a midfield duel between the 2019 MLS MVP and the reigning MLS Player of Month, Earthquakes midfielder Chofis.

Defender Nathan said that, as long as there is still opportunity to qualify for the MLS Playoffs, he will continue to give it his all. The Brazilian feels prepared to take on the Vela’s threat, saying he will match his game with a lot of intensity.

“Vela is a really good player so we should be very careful,” Nathan said. “I am speaking for myself when I say that I play with aggression. When I see the need, I try to be as aggressive as I can. If they have the ball, I will have to change my tactics in accordance with their playing style. There will be different moments in the game in which we will need to change our mentality and tactics.”

The Quakes have six matches left in the regular season, with three games set in the next 10 days. San Jose will have very little time to rest, with a mid-week match scheduled every week between now and Decision Day on Nov. 7. Almeyda knows he will have to make rotations in the lineup, saying it will be impossible to field the same players due to the short turnarounds in between matches.

“We have to focus on the first game which is the one coming up,” Almeyda said. “We need to see how things go. Surely, with this many games in this amount of time, it will be impossible to utilize the same team over and over again. The players know that there will be rotations and it happens to be a complicated moment for us in which we need points.”

This turns even more challenging as the Quakes will be without midfielder Eric Remedi on Saturday due to yellow card accumulation. But despite the circumstances, midfielder Jackson Yueill believes Saturday’s match will be an exciting opportunity to build momentum against a fierce rival.

“I think it’s like all the Clasico games, the rivalry,” Yueill said. “Northern California vs. Southern California. I think we’re always up for it. They’ve beaten us heavily in the past and right now we’ve done well against them the past couple of games. I think it shows we’re trying to learn and trying to improve. I think they’re still a great team and those wins are really important for us and this game is really important as well leading into the last six games and hopefully playoffs. The team is always ready to play against great opponents and they’re one of the best in the league so the motivation in the locker room is high in these games. We have to take each game one-by-one and they’re all finals from here on out. We have points to catch up on and we can’t let one play, one opportunity slip by.”

Kickoff at Banc of California Stadium is set for 12:30 p.m. PT and will be broadcast nationally on Univision and TUDN, Twitter, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.