As the calendar flips to a new year, a hunger grows among local soccer fans as cravings for the fast approaching 18th season of MLS get their juices flowing. A December teaser announcing a March 3 First Kick for the San Jose Earthquakes, served up like a platter of hors d’oeuvres, whet the appetite for what lay in store in 2013. Sure, the record setting 2012 season was certainly tasty, but the boys in Blue-and-Black seem primed to host an even bigger banquet for their faithful supporters. And so today, with the announcement of the full 2013 regular season Earthquakes schedule, the menu is complete.
34 games adorn the schedule, starting with the Quakes season opener against Real Salt Lake on March 3 and finishing with a home match against FC Dallas on October 26. The final season at Buck Shaw Stadium before the team moves into their new digs in 2014 features the return of the whole slate of Western Conference foes, as well as the visit of five Eastern Conference teams not seen in these parts for over a year. The current MLS unbalanced schedule is designed to even out the competition over the span of two seasons, so 2013 will essentially mirror 2012. For example, last year the Quakes hosted the Houston Dynamo, so this year they will return the favor.
In addition, San Jose will see its 34 game schedule expanded as both the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League competitions add matches to the calendar. Throw in a potential friendly or two, and the mid-summer MLS All-Star game, and the Earthquakes have a busy year ahead of them. And if expectations are met, by November the Quakes will be making their second straight appearance in the MLS Cup playoffs.
With so many games on the docket, which ones should fans pay special attention to? Of course, every match is important, and no doubt will be very entertaining, but a quick scan of the full season schedule finds half a dozen games that deserve an extra circling in the calendar.
New York Red Bulls (Sunday, March 10) — a second successive home game to open the Quakes season features a visit from the Red Bulls and their on-field leader Thierry Henry. The Arsenal legend has yet to make an appearance in the Bay Area, and with New York’s next visit not likely until the 2015 season, this might be the last chance to see the World Cup winner in San Jose. Add the atmosphere of a nationally televised Sunday night broadcast on ESPN2, and this match is not to be missed.
Montreal Impact (Sunday, May 4) and Toronto FC (Wednesday, May 8) — A Canadian twin bill gets the month of May started off right, and what better than to watch the Quakes get their fill of these two clubs caught in managerial transition. Chris Wondolowski will certainly welcome the North-of-the-Border competition, as over the past three seasons he has feasted on Canadian teams to the score of 13 goals in 11 games. And with any luck, Buck Shaw Stadium will welcome a specialty food truck featuring that gravy-laden delicacy known as poutine, so supporters too can make a proper meal of their Canadian visitors.
LA Galaxy (Saturday, June 29) — The high-water mark of the 2012 season was the LA Galaxy’s visit to a sold-out Stanford Stadium that featured an amazing fireworks show on the field in the Quakes 4-3 victory over their So-Cal rivals and above the field during the post-match celebration. So how do you top what was named the best MLS game of last year? Invite the same guests, fill the stadium to capacity, and let forth another sure-to-be memorable California Clasico. And don’t forget, the match will mark the first meeting of 2013 between the defending Supporters’ Shield champions San Jose and defending MLS Cup champions Los Angeles. No question, be sure to buy your tickets early for this one.
Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, August 18) — The Quakes rarely had a let down last season, and their visit to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City in early June was no different. Sure, Wondolowski was with the U.S. Men’s National Team, and San Jose was edged out 2-1 by Sporting, but the match was arguably the most entertaining of the season in terms of atmosphere and energy. This time, it will be the supporters at Buck Shaw Stadium that will have their moment to shine, and with a chance to jeer on a slew of former Quakes now plying their trade with the SporKCs, this late-summer match is a must-see.
at LA Galaxy (Sunday, October 20) — Why add a road game to this list of sumptuous home affairs, as well as a second match against the LA Galaxy? Quite simply, any chance to watch the Quakes take on their heated rivals deserves the attention and travel dedication of all San Jose supporters. Last May at The Home Depot Center, a stoppage time goal from Alan Gordon completed a stunning 3-2 comeback victory over the Galaxy prompting fellow forward Steven Lenhart to coin the “Goonies never say die” motto that defined the 2012 Earthquakes team. This time around, the Quakes visit to The HDC comes as the penultimate game on the regular season schedule, and who knows, perhaps another such amazing and memorable moment will be in the making.