Know Your Enemy: San Jose Earthquakes

Stopping Wondolowski always important vs. 'Quakes

San Jose KYE

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The 2013 season comes to a close for FC Dallas as they head to Northern California on Saturday to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.

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San Jose has a mountain to climb to get into the playoffs on the final week of the regular season. The Quakes need to score 13 goals in a win over Dallas in order to pass the Colorado Rapids for the fifth and final playoff spot. They also need the Rapids to lose their game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, so it's more than likely that neither team will be playing after this weekend.

Dallas got the better of San Jose back in their first meeting this season, winning that May 25th match 1-0. Fabian Castillo scored the game’s only goal in the 33rd minute.

The two teams drew their second match of the season back in August, a 2-2 draw.

San Jose has won three out of their last five and are unbeaten in their last six league games after a scoreless draw at LA Galaxy last weekend.

Injury Watch

San Jose has had plenty of injuries to deal with this season. Currently they have four players out for Saturday’s game. Midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy and forward Marcus Tracy are out with knee injuries while defender Ty Harden is out due to a hip surgery and rookie defender Tommy Muller is out with lower back spasms.

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Key Matchup

Chris Wondolowski vs Walker Zimmerman – The rookie has shown well against some of the league’s top players this season most recently shutting down Clint Dempsey and Seattle. Zimmerman’s toughest task to date will be slowing down Wondolowski though. The 2012 MLS MVP hasn’t had as great of a season as he did a year ago, but he is always dangerous in key spots for the 'Quakes.

Shea Salinas vs Kellyn Acosta – The speed of these two players will be one of the biggest reasons to watch this matchup. Salinas always does a good job at taking on defenders on the flanks while Acosta has proven this season that he's capable of slowing down any attackers that come his way.  

HIGHLIGHTS: San Jose vs LA

Key Player for San Jose

Sam Cronin – While Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon get all the praise for what they do offensively for San Jose, it is Cronin that does a lot of the dirty work in the midfield to set them up. Cronin does an excellent job of keeping the 'Quakes in games by shutting down the opposing team’s playmaker and by distributing the ball to the wings to help facilitate the attack.

Projected Lineup

Watson uses a very simple and traditional 4-4-2 formation. 

Goalkeeper: Joe Busch; RB: Steven Beitashour; CB: Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson; LB: Justin Marrow; RM: Shea Salinas; CM: Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca; LM: Walter Martinez; FW: Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon

Keys to three points

In a large way this game has very little impact on the playoff race in the Western Conference. For Dallas it will be all about ending Schellas Hyndman’s tenure as manager on a good note and sending the fans into the offseason with some positives things to think about.

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As pointed out above, San Jose has to score a lot of goals in this one to get into the playoffs. More than likely, this game to them will be about setting up their CONCACAF Champions League run for next spring now that they are in to the knock out round after winning their final group stage game on Wednesday night.

For Dallas to end this season on a good note they’ll need to control the point of attack in this one. San Jose does a good job at finding their attackers in space and allowing them to create chances in the penalty box out of nothing. Eliminating their chances will be vital in ending this season on a positive note.

Dallas will also want to use the wings in this one to create chances of their own. The field at Buck Shaw Stadium is a little narrower than what the club is use to playing on at Toyota Stadium, so using the width that is there will help keep things moving offensively. San Jose likes to go down the middle of the field with their attack because of this narrow field.

At the end of the day, this game is all about pride for Dallas. Some players will be playing for 2014, others for Hyndman, but all of them will be out for the same goal, a win to end the season.