Earthquakes focus on points, not L.A. rivalry

June 24, 2011, 11:49 pm
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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