The San Jose Earthquakes kick off Week 4 of the MLS regular season in Utah against Real Salt Lake on Friday. The road match at Rio Tinto Stadium will feature two clubs who will battle to remain among the top three in the Western Conference.
Real Salt Lake is the only team in the league who has won all their matches to date this season, equaling San Jose’s six points with one less match played. The Utah side defeated Minnesota United FC 2-1 and Sporting Kansas City 3-1.
Since taking the helm, Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda holds a 2-1-0 record versus Real Salt Lake, most recently defeating them 2-0 on October 28, 2020 with both goals courtesy of Chris Wondolowski. Speaking on a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Almeyda expects to face an opponent that has improved tremendously since their last matchup.
"[Real Salt Lake] signed some new players who have responded quickly,” Almeyda said. “They went deeper with what you can see from their coach and their system of play. They're a team that has changes. They're a team that has a lot of mobility. They're a team that has players that attack as a surprise. They're a good team. A difficult team. I think that they've grown. For us, it was always hard to go up against them. But this year the start was good."
Real Salt Lake forward Rubio Rubin, who joined the team in January, leads his club in goals (2) and assists (2). Rubin netted a brace in RSL’s 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City last week and looks to add to his total on Friday. Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski recognizes the threat in Rubin and Real Salt Lake.
"They're a really good team,” Marcinkowski said. “They're really good at what they do, and they play a good style of football and I think that tactically they're really well set up. Rubio is having a really good run. I've actually known Rubio for a really long time. Him and I go back probably eight or nine years and so I'm really happy for him that he's doing well. He's definitely worked hard, he deserves it, but obviously hoping to slow him down this weekend."
Friday’s contest is another opportunity for the Quakes to build on their winning form. San Jose outscored opponents 7-2 in their last two matches and will have a three-match homestand when they return from Utah. Almeyda and the squad are keen to keep their form in this favorable stretch of matches.
Kickoff at Rio Tinto Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m. PT and the match will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports app, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF. The match will also air on NBC Sports Bay Area via tape delay at 10:30 p.m.