Quakes-Red Bulls: What to watch for

April 14, 2012, 10:46 pm
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One of the few lasting memories of the 2011 season was Steven Lenharts spectacular header for a goal July 2nd against the New York Red Bulls in front of 40,000 fans at Stanford Stadium. He celebrated by doing a chin up on the crossbar of the goal post as the place went berserk. Sadly, he will not get a chance to repeat the feat this week as the San Jose Earthquakes will cross the country without him or his still injured hamstring to take on New York.The Red Bulls and Earthquakes have played some spectacular matches in recent years. Earthquake fans will not soon forget since departed Bobby Conveys effort in the visiting half of the playoffs in 2010. The match on Saturday has the potential to be even better.The leagues 3 leading goal scorers will be featured in this clash. French international Thierry Henry and his 7 goals continue to build on his legend. Kenny Cooper has found a home as his target forward for the Red Bulls as they have scored 13 goals in their last 3 matches. That is the first time in MLS history a team has been able to do that. After dropping their first two matches to Dallas and Real Salt Lake, New York has won their last three matches scored 4 against Colorado, 5 against Montreal, and 4 against Columbus. Those 13 goals are the most scored in three consecutive games in MLS history. Now granted, Colorado, Montreal and Columbus havent proven to be world beaters, but the league just hasnt seen scoring like this.My guess is San Jose will try to counter defensively with the same back line that has started every game. Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow will continue to anchor the central defense with Steven Beitashour and Ramiro Corrales policing the right and left sides respectively. It will be interesting to see if Corrales and Beitashour will be able to join in offensively as much as they did last week against Vancouver or if they take a more conservative approach.The Earthquakes are literally hamstrung a bit at the striker position. Lenhart and Goal of the Week Nominee Alan Gordon are nursing hamstring issues and are doubtful for the trip east. This will provide an opportunity for someone, whether it is Simon Dawkins, Khari Stephenson or someone else, is yet to be seen.Fortunately Marvin Chavez has recovered from the ankle issue that he suffered in the first half of last weeks match with Vancouver. The midfield will be challenged severely this week so it is good that all are healthy and ready to go. The more they are able to control and dictate the play, the fewer chances Henry will have to get the ball to Cooper. If things dont start well defensively, perhaps well see Marc Jean Alexanders debut in the defensive mid position. His physicality may be of use against the Red Bulls offensive attack.This match is a great test for the team right now. Coming home with a point would be a positive, but when a team starts this well, anything less than three is disappointing. It is being televised at 4pm on Comcast SportsNet California. It will be a feed of the New York Red Bulls telecast, so be forewarned. The following week is another steep challenge for the Quakes as Real Salt Lake comes to Buck Shaw Stadium. RSL has become what Columbus used to be; a team that fears nobody and has a swagger that an MLS cup can fuel. Tickets are still available. It should be some very exciting soccer.