MLS Playoff Preview: Earthquakes vs. New York

MLS Playoff Preview: Earthquakes vs. New York
November 4, 2010, 9:32 pm
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Nov. 4, 2010EARTHQUAKES PAGE EARTHQUAKES ROSTERMLS PAGE MLS STATISTICS

NEW YORK (AP) -- The depth of the New York Red Bulls made it easier for them to withstand the absence of three players to open the MLS playoffs.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Earthquakes are looking for another option to keep the pressure off Chris Wondolowski, the league's leading scorer.

The Red Bulls need either a win or tie to advance to the conference finals when they host the Earthquakes in the second leg of an aggregate-goal series Thursday night.

New York opened this series with a 1-0 victory at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday. Joel Lindpere scored in the 55th minute and Bouna Coundoul made three saves in the team's fifth shutout in six matches.

The Red Bulls were without Thierry Henry (right knee strain) for a third straight game as well as Salou Ibrahim and Tony Tchani, who were nursing hamstring injuries. Tchani and Ibrahim are expected to be available Thursday while Henry will likely be a game-time decision.

"His turning was excellent, looked really sharp," coach Hans Backe, who said Henry may be used as a sub if he's ready to go, told the Red Bulls' official website. "But just to hit the ball, to kick the ball, he feels some pain."

While winning short-handed was impressive enough, the Red Bulls also accomplished something few teams have managed to do - hold Wondolowski without a goal. Wondolowski led the league with 18 goals, notching four in the final two regular-season games, but he was held to two shots Saturday.

"The statistics don't lie: If Chris isn't scoring, we're having trouble finding goals," defender Jason Hernandez told the Earthquakes' official website. "It's a challenge for our other guys to step up and make some plays."

San Jose fell to 2-8-6 when Wondolowski fails to score. He's accounted for the team's last 10 goals, and the last player other than him to score was midfielder Geovanni on Sept. 5.

"You can't go through a number of games without somebody else coming up and scoring to help Chris out," coach Frank Yallop said. "Somebody's going to pop up and hopefully make the difference for us."

Yallop's team, which last advanced to the conference finals in 2003 when it won the MLS Cup, wants to make sure it plays good defense Thursday. But having a 1-0 deficit in goals means it's going to have to attack more than it did last weekend.

"We're definitely going to get forward," Wondolowski said. "But ... the longer that we're down by only one goal, we have a chance. If we got down by 2-0, that makes things 10 times more different."

Playing on the road might actually help San Jose. The Earthquakes were 6-5-4 away from home, going 3-1-1 in their last five. However, they lost 2-0 at Red Bull Arena on Aug. 28.

The Red Bulls, who advanced to the conference finals in 2008, haven't lost in their last five home games, posting three consecutive shutouts. While a tie would advance them, they are looking for more.

"We must go out and win," midfielder Rafa Marquez said. "I don't think we can spare any efforts. We're at home and I think the team is playing very well."

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