Earthquakes focus on points, not L.A. rivalry


Earthquakes focus on points, not L.A. rivalry


SAN JOSE -- Its that time of summer again. For most Earthquakes fans, Saturday's game is one of the biggest occasions of the season. David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy will make the trip north to Buck Shaw Stadium in a match that more often than not provokes passionate reactions from the Earthquakes fans and provides yet another chapter in the seemingly ceaseless sports rivalry between Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The Earthquakes themselves, though, arent necessarily looking to get one over on the Galaxy because of any sort of rivalry, or even because the Galaxy is the top team in the league.

They're a good team, we know that. Our job is just keep trying to win games at home for sure and picking up your points and you wins when you can get them away from home, head coach Frank Yallop said.

For Yallop, the Galaxys visit provides another opportunity to face the team he coached for a season and a half between 2006 and 2007. However, Yallop insisted there was no extra emotion surrounding the Galaxys fourth visit to the Bay Area since he left the team. When asked if there was any personal meaning for the game, Yallop replied, It never did.

When you play against a team that you've coached the first time's a little uncomfortable, because it's not normal, he continued. You used to be with the guys on the field on the other side, but then once you've done it once it's over. I don't know many of the players now, anyway.

Yallop worked with Landon Donovan in both Los Angeles and in his early years in San Jose, but he'll be happy not to see him this weekend. The U.S. national team star, along with Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, will be representing the United States against Mexico in Saturday evenings Gold Cup final, which is set to kick off less than an hour after the conclusion of the Earthquakes-Galaxy match.

Despite the absence of their offensive centerpiece in Wondolowski, the Earthquakes will be looking to extend their three-game home winning streak and continue their rise up the Western Conference standings.

While a win would still leave San Jose six points behind Seattle Sounders FC in the race for an automatic playoff berth, it would allow the Earthquakes to maintain a hold on one of the four at-large playoff spots while having played fewer games than most teams around them.

We're three wins in a row right now at home, so we've got good momentum going into this game, we've just got to concentrate on this game, just take it as another season game and try to get another W, Earthquakes rookie midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong said.

Theyre the best team in the league, record-wise, but for us its about making sure were ready to play any game we play, Yallop said. Columbus came in here on a seven game unbeaten streak and they were top of the East at the time, and it didn't matter where they were in their league, it's about winning for us and that's all we worry about, not the opposition.

However, it would be impossible to say fans desire to see a victory over the teams biggest rivals is something that the players are completely blocking out.

Big games, thats what we want to play, said Earthquakes forward Ryan Johnson, after being asked what effect the fans desire to see a win might have on the team. We want to play in big games, so we want to win this one for the fans first off, they really want this win against LA and we want it to.

Johnson, often a left winger with the Earthquakes, will be high on confidence after a successful Gold Cup campaign with Jamaica in which he netted two goals. While Jamaica eventually fell 2-0 to the U.S. in the quarterfinals, Johnson said of his goal scoring exploits, It only helps, so Ill just try to keep the same form coming back for the team.

Yallop shared a similar line of thought, saying after practice on Thursday: He looked sharp this morning, so he should be good to go for the weekend. He did well before he left and he had a good Gold Cup so Im excited to get him back on the pitch and he should do well.

Whether Yallop calls on Johnson, or any of the other number of players who have contributed to the teams recent success, the message to the team is the same: Its just another game.

For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win


SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.

What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras


What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras

The United States Men's National Team faces a critical match against Honduras. 

With an 0-2 record, and currently in last place, the USMNT is on the brink of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Motivation across the sports world is pouring in for the Red, White and Blue.