West rivals clash as Whitecaps visit Earthquakes

2:01 AM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
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Santa Clara, CA (Sports Network) - A pair of desperate Western Conference rivals clash on Saturday as the San Jose Earthquakes welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to Buck Shaw Stadium.

Both clubs are tied with 37 points, five points shy of fifth place in the West, and in need of three points to get back into the playoff discussion.

San Jose come into the match riding a run of strong home form having won six consecutive matches at Buck Shaw, including last week's 1-0 win over Philadelphia despite being down a man for the final half hour of play.

The game's lone goal came in the 15th minute when Sam Cronin played a beautiful chip from just past midfield to Shea Salinas, who made a well-timed run into the box and found himself all alone after Philadelphia defender Sheanon Williams fell down. He took one touch and volleyed it past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

The game took a dramatic turn near the hour mark when Rafael Baca was sent off by referee Fotis Bazakos with a second yellow card after going in hard on Union striker Conor Casey. But Philadelphia didn't mount much of an offensive threat as the 'Quakes held on for a crucial three points.

The six-match home winning streak is the club's longest home winning streak since winning 12 in a row over the end of the 2001 season and the start of 2002.

"At home, you are in familiar surroundings; you don't have any travel and when you combine that with great fans, you can get some wins," said Earthquakes interim head coach Mark Watson. "We know that we will have to get some points on the road in this final stretch though if we want to get into the playoffs."

Vancouver, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-1 defeat to FC Dallas last week which saw its winless run extended to four straight games.

The 'Caps opened the scoring just four minutes in when Daigo Kobayashi deftly volleyed past Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz. But FCD had an answer just four minutes later through midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson.

Dallas then seized control of the game in the second half with goals from Mauro Diaz, and a spectacular 50-yard strike by Jair Benitez that caught Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted way off his line.

"We've got to climb to get up there, but I still feel like we'll get there. We've been here before. It was a tough struggle to get there last year and it will be this year," Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie said of his team's playoff fight.

"Its very close. There are a lot of games left to play, seven games, lots of points to play for. We need to do well in the next couple of games but I don't think that hurts our confidence. It is something we have to get over quickly."

In seven all-time meetings between the sides, San Jose holds a 3-3-1 edge, but Vancouver handed the 'Quakes a 2-0 defeat in the last meeting on Aug. 10.

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