Center Back Strong: Big center backs Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson are scheduled to be re-paired in a pivotal game against the Whitecaps FC, after spending time apart because of a hamstring injury to Bernardez and last week's one-game suspension served by Goodson. The Quakes are 4-1-0 with four shutouts the past five times Goodson and Bernardez have started together. The one loss occurred when Bernardez exited in the first half with an injury. Fatai Alashe, a rookie midfielder, has stepped in admirably at center back the past four games, including a 1-0 shutout of Real Salt Lake last week. But Alashe won't be returning to the Quakes midfield on Saturday; he's on U.S. U-23 duty with Marc Pelosi. Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia is also out after receiving two yellow cards against RSL, the second one coming after he famously removed his jersey after scoring the winner in the 87th minute. Tommy Thompson and/or JJ Koval could well factor in the central midfield mix along with Panama international Anibal Godoy.
A Race Out West: There's no sense in tip-toeing around it. Saturday's match is huge for both teams in a tightly bunched Western Conference. Only nine points separates the first-place LA Galaxy (50) and eighth-place Houston Dynamo (41). The Quakes (43) will move into the top six with a victory, but the Whitecaps (48) can clinch a playoff spot and remain viable for the top seed out west and the Supporters' Shield with a victory. So don't expect the Whitecaps to try to cozy into a one-point draw with eight-men behind the ball all night, right? Quakes fans will also be monitoring the Sporting Kansas-Portland game Saturday night. Fifth-place SKC leads the Quakes by two points, and sixth-place Portland leads the Quakes by one. It's crazy right now, but fun. San Jose will get next week off, before closing the regular season at home against SKC on Oct. 16 and at FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Oct. 25.
Fortress Factor: The Earthquakes are tough to break down at home. In fact, it's been a 'D'-lightful showing in the South Bay. They are 7-3-5 at home overall, 6-3-4 at Avaya Stadium, 0-0-1 at Levi's Stadium and 1-0-0 at Stanford Stadium. San Jose has worked seven shutouts at home, allowing just one goal in six games and two goals in two games. Goalkeeper David Bingham has been a beast when he's needed to be. He has worked 11 shutouts this season, one off Pat Onstad's club record set in 2005. Onstad was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year that season.