July 1, 2011MLSSCOREBOARD EARTHQUAKESPAGE
PALO ALTO New stadiums are popping up all across the MLS landscape and on Saturday evening, the Earthquakes will get a chance to test out some new digs of their own when they welcome the New York Red Bulls at Stanford Stadium. While the short move from Santa Clara to Palo Alto is for one game only, the Earthquakes have already found themselves right at home in a stadium that boasts five times the capacity of the teams usual stomping grounds at Buck Shaw Stadium. While Stanford Stadium cant exactly boast the same intimacy offered by Buck Shaw, those around the team anticipate that the atmosphere afforded by a bigger crowd will be a boon to the teams chances of winning. Were expecting between 20 and 30,000 people for the game, so its going to be great, said head coach Frank Yallop, of the anticipated atmosphere. Part of the draw comes from the events being planned around the game. The one-time move to Stanford coincides with the Fourth of July weekend, with Monday representing the 17th anniversary of the United States national teams 1-0 loss to eventual winners Brazil in the knockout rounds of the 1994 World Cup, a game played at Stanford Stadium. The veterans of that team will be honored in a pre-game ceremony, and a fireworks show will follow the game. I think it shows the fans will support us if we put on a show and weve got the game, and fireworks and all those things, but I think there are enough soccer fans around here that will come and support the team, Yallop said. Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who will be playing his first game in an Earthquakes uniform since missing the month of June on duty with the U.S. national team, insisted that the team was ready to handle a louder, more boisterous crowd. I think the guys will be alright, Wondolowski said. Weve had a lot of guys that have played in big games and Ive had big moments and big crowds, so I think well be alright and I think guys will make the most of it and enjoy it.
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While the crowd will be bigger than what the Earthquakes usually get, the field itself looks set to be smaller. It was narrow for practice on Thursday, with almost no separation between the stands and the playing surface, which could present a unique challenge for soccer teams playing their game on a field designed primarily for football. Indeed, the field at Stanford Stadium drew comparisons from two Earthquakes players to the teams old home ground at Spartan Stadium, on the campus of San Jose State University, also used primarily for college football. With football requiring a field slightly longer and narrower than soccer, the tight dimensions of Stanford Stadium could require some adjustments to both teams game plans. Its definitely tighter, Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. Its going to be almost like were playing at Spartan Stadium back in the day where you can shoot from any angle. You have to be aware of that, balls are going to move around quickly and you have to be aware from shots coming from any different angle, because it is going to be a bit tighter than over at Santa Clara. Wondolowski, meanwhile, pointed out that the narrow dimensions of the field could not only affect how the game is played, but also how the crowd factors into the game. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of Spartan Stadium with the walls closed and tight like that and I hope it brings a little bit of the intimidation that Spartan did and something that Buck Shaw has a little bit, he said. Its kind of reminiscent of those fields and I think well play well on it.Between the intimidation factor and the narrow field, the Earthquakes certainly have their advantages in Saturdays game, ones that might be crucial in overcoming a very talented New York team. It isnt home in the truest sense, but if the stadium turns out as anticipated, it could provide just the boost the Earthquakes need.For more Earthquakes, MLS and soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano