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San Jose Earthquakes Chris Wondolowski (8) fights for the ball against Real Salt Lake Tony Beltran (2) and Álvaro Saborío (15) in the second half at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, March 3, 2013. (Josie Lepe/Staff)
Real Salt Lake must be wary of San Jose’s Wondolowski
RSL » Team knows it must keep tabs on “clinical finisher.”
First Published Mar 11 2014 03:46 pm • Last Updated Mar 11 2014 11:32 pm

Sandy • Where’s Wondo?

The phrase has reverberated throughout the Real Salt Lake locker room and will continue to do so this week when the club travels to face the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night. Which presents the rule of thumb that surfaces anytime a team faces the Earthquakes: Find Chris Wondolowski, and try not to lose him.

At a glance

RSL at San Jose

O Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

TV » Ch. 4

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The San Jose star forward, who scored 27 goals and had seven assists in the club’s 2012 Supporters’ Shield winning season, is considered one of the best target forwards in Major League Soccer. And he has a variety of ways to score.

"He always seems to be in the right place at the right time," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "He’s definitely someone we’re going to have to circle on the chalkboard when we’re playing them."

The Earthquakes are nothing like RSL’s first opponent, the L.A. Galaxy. San Jose, especially at home, is out to outmuscle teams through capitalizing on crosses into the 18-yard box as well as use its size and physicality on set pieces.

"They batter and bruise up top and keep it organized in the back," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.

But the main focus will be on Wondolowski, a goal-scorer familiar with RSL.

"Just always be aware of where he is," said defender Chris Wingert. "He’s a clinical finisher and you’ve got to concentrate best you can."

Injury report

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RSL coach Jeff Cassar said Tuesday the news on the injury front is positive. While RSL was without Chris Schuler (foot), Devon Sandoval (foot), Robbie Findley (knee) and Sebastian Velasquez (hamstring) during the season opener in L.A., the club should start to see some of its top talents return to match-day rosters and potentially starting lineups.

Cassar said he doesn’t expect Schuler — whose replacement, Aaron Maund, contributed to shutting out the Galaxy — to start against the Earthquakes. The coaching staff doesn’t want to rush back Schuler if his foot isn’t ready for 90 minutes of impact following offseason surgery.

"He’s now challenging for traveling and for a starting spot," Cassar said, "but we just want to make sure we’re progressing him."

Velasquez, who recently suffered a hamstring strain, had a setback during training last week, Cassar said, and the target date for the midfielder’s return to fitness is the home opener on March 22 against L.A. Findley continues to rehab after offseason knee surgery and isn’t expected to be back until May or June, but Sandoval’s lingering foot injury is "moving forward," Cassar said.

Secret, secret

Why is Rimando so good at saving penalty kicks? The RSL keeper has saved 20 of 61 penalty-kick attempts in his regular-season career. At a 32.8 percent success rate, that means Rimando owns the best save percentage in MLS history.

"He’s got a secret trick, he really does," Beckerman said of his teammate. "He’s told me a couple of times kind of, but he still even keeps it a secret from me."

"I always think [Nick] has a shot to save it," added Wingert.

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