Sandy • It was a switching ball, left to right.
Jason Kreis described the shot from beyond the 18-yard box by Chris Wondolowski, which missed, in Real Salt Lake’s June 23 loss to San Jose with astonishing detail. That Wondolowski freed himself of the RSL defender was the first sign of trouble, and a precursor for when he did it again for the game winner.
“I was as mad,” Kreis said, “as fired up, as I’ve ever been, after that game.”
So, here we go again.
RSL (11-6-3, 36 points) has a shot at redemption for two losses to Earthquakes when they return to Buck Shaw Stadium in San Jose (11-4-4, 37 points) on Saturday in a game for first place in the Western Conference.
“It feels big to me,” Kreis said. “I’m really, really up for it. I’m hopeful that all our guys feel the same as me. I feel like that last match here and the match there, both some really odd stuff going on in those games. So I think that we have a statement to make.”
RSL lost 3-1 in San Jose on April 21, and 2-1 three weeks ago at Rio Tinto Stadium. The home loss was particularly troubling to RSL, which drew even in the 79th minute on a Javier Morales free kick, only to see Wondolowski slip free and score the winner in the 84th minute.
“We feel like we crushed them the last time we played them,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “But we didn’t get the result, which is strange in soccer. But that’s what soccer brings sometime.”
Kreis and Real believe they have shored up some of the defensive issues that led to opportunities in those games, including the return of center back Jamison Olave, who sat out the June 23 game with a calf injury.
Even with Olave’s return, it’s unclear whether RSL will be at full strength on Saturday. Midfielder Ned Grabavoy and defender Nat Borchers both missed most of this week’s training with injuries, but returned on Friday. Late Friday they were considered day-to-day.
Wondolowski leads the MLS with 14 goals, and is the top priority for RSL.
“I think even going into that game we know how he plays,” said defender Chris Wingert, who shifted to center back for two of the games Olave missed, including the loss to San Jose. “It’s a type of guy that you need to be extremely focused on and constantly know where he is and not fall asleep.”
RSL at San Jose Earthquakes
P Buck Shaw Stadium (San Jose, Calif.)
Kickoff • Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4
Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
Records • RSL 11-6-3 (36 points), San Jose 11-4-4 (37 points)
Series record • Tied 5-5-5
Last meeting • San Jose 2, RSL 1 (June 23)
About RSL • Real Salt Lake won its first game in five tries July 7 with a 3-0 victory against Portland at Rio Tinto Stadium. … Defender Nat Borchers and midfielder Ned Grabavoy are both questionable. Borchers is rehabbing a strained quad, while Grabavoy banged knees with a Portland forward in the team’s last outing.
About the Earthquakes • Despite remaining on top of the Western Conference by one point, the Quakes are 1-2-1 since defeating Real Salt Lake on June 23. … Chris Wondolowski, the MLS’ leading scorer, upped his goal total to 14 on June 30 against the L.A. Galaxy.