Programming note: The Earthquakes kick off against Real Salt Lake Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.
The last two times these clubs met, the San Jose Earthquakes moved ahead of Real Salt Lake for the Western Conference lead.RSL will try to return the favor this time.San Jose goes for the season sweep of Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.After Simon Dawkins and Chris Wondolowski scored in second-half injury time to lift San Jose to a 3-1 home win over RSL on April 21 - moving the club atop the West for the first time since returning to MLS in 2008 - the Earthquakes (11-4-4) posted a 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 23 to move a point ahead of Real Salt Lake.Now with that same edge over second-place RSL (11-6-3), San Jose will try to avoid a season high-tying three-match winless stretch following last Saturday's scoreless draw at conference-worst FC Dallas.Down a man in the 80th minute when captain Ramiro Corrales was sent off for picking up his second yellow card, the Earthquakes still had a number of opportunities to find the back of the net."Whether you're down a man or up a man, when you're one-on-one with the goalkeeper, you still need to finish it and we didn't do that," said Wondolowski, the league leader with 14 goals.The suspended Corrales now has to hope his team can finish the sweep of RSL without him."(It would be) a big, big confidence boost," he told the league's official website. "Obviously, they're one of the better teams in the league, that's why they're one point behind us. ... I'm very disappointed I won't be a part of that, but I think the guys can do the job."Wondolowski has one goal in each of the two matches with RSL in 2012 after going scoreless in his first five games against Real Salt Lake.RSL forward Alvaro Saborio is scoreless versus San Jose this season, but he's coming off the second hat trick in club history in last Saturday's 3-0 win over Portland. Saborio, third in MLS with 10 goals, snapped the club's 249-minute scoreless stretch in the 60th minute."The goal - it opens everything," he said. "We finally scored first and got a win."Forward Justin Braun could make his Real Salt Lake debut Saturday when the club goes for its first back-to-back victories since a 3-0 run May 12-June 16.Braun, a Salt Lake City native, was acquired from Montreal on Wednesday for a 2014 conditional draft pick."Really excited to add Justin," general manager Garth Lagerwey told RSL's official website. "Big, athletic player that I think can play either one of the forward spots for us."In six games against San Jose while with Chivas USA, Braun had four goals and an assist.The Earthquakes should have forward Steven Lenhart back after coach Frank Yallop gave him last Saturday off to rest.Alan Gordon, who replaced Lenhart in that match for his third start of 2012, scored and set up Wondolowski's goal last month in Sandy, Utah.San Jose has never won three in a row against Real Salt Lake.