Watson era begins as Earthquakes visit Rapids

Watson era begins as Earthquakes visit Rapids
June 15, 2013, 9:00 am
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The Earthquakes are seeking a win in interim coach Mark Watson debut. (AP)

Programming note: Earthquakes-Rapids coverage begins tonight at 6 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

While the Colorado Rapids are looking to extend their longest unbeaten streak in two seasons, the San Jose Earthquakes are hoping for a fresh start under interim coach Mark Watson.

The Rapids will try to stretch their undefeated run to seven Saturday night when the Watson era begins for the visiting Earthquakes.

Surging Colorado (5-4-5) hasn't lost in almost two months in league play, though it was knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 loss at Orlando City on May 28.

The Rapids have gone 3-0-3 in their last six MLS matches following a 2-all draw with Western Conference-leading FC Dallas on June 1. They're seeking their longest unbeaten streak since a team-record nine-game stretch April 30-June 11, 2011.

Midfielder Atiba Harris has been hot for the Rapids, scoring three times in the last two contests. He leads Colorado with a career high-tying four goals after going scoreless in seven matches with Vancouver last season.

"He's such a professional player, he's always working and he knew that he didn't have a good year last year," coach Oscar Pareja told the league's official website. "It's an opportunity that the club is providing to him, he's embracing it and doing a great job."

Harris and the Rapids look to keep rolling as they take on San Jose (3-6-6) for the second time in four matches.

Nathan Sturgis gave visiting Colorado the lead in the first meeting before Marvin Chavez answered for the Earthquakes in the 78th minute of a 1-all tie May 18.

Chavez has four goals over the past two seasons, with two coming against the Rapids. San Jose has outscored Colorado 12-5 while going 3-0-2 in the last five meetings.

This time, Watson will be calling the shots for the Earthquakes after taking over for his predecessor and former boss Frank Yallop.

San Jose, second-to-last in the West with 15 points, reached a mutual agreement to part ways with Yallop last Friday following the team's 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on June 1. Yallop had been in charge since the club's return to MLS in 2008 - his second stint in San Jose.

Watson takes over a club that has won once in 11 matches and has been outscored 9-1 while going 0-3-1 over the last four.

"This team's not in a good situation, record-wise," Watson said. "So my job is to turn things around and get some wins. ... We'll work with different scenarios, different lineups and try to find the right mix to get us that win to kind of turn the tide for us."

While the Earthquakes have allowed the fourth-most goals in the league with 23, they've also been shut out four times in their last five matches - including a 1-0 loss at Charleston in the U.S. Open Cup on May 28.

San Jose's 13 goals are tied with conference-worst Chivas USA for the fewest in the West.

"We can't keep digging a hole for ourselves to climb out of," Watson said. "And I think we haven't moved the ball as well as we have in the past."

The Earthquakes face a tough challenge against Colorado's Clint Irwin, who has five shutouts over his last nine games. The Rapids top the West with 12 goals allowed.