Quakes aim to shake up S.F. as part of soccer doubleheader

After picking up a win in their first match of the season, the Earthquakes make a rare trip to San Francisco to play at AT&T Park on Saturday against Houston.

“Everybody in our area, we’re going to support,” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. “[It] should be a great atmosphere, should be a full house.”

The Earthquakes are coming off a 1-0 win over New England and head off on a trip with three of its next four matches on the road. Even though Saturday’s is listed as a home game, Yallop doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s still an away game,” Yallop said. “It has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages. The big thing for us is to get a positive result.”

Honduran center back Victor Bernardez, who signed with San Jose in the offseason, played a key role in the win Saturday when he broke up New England midfielder Lee Nguyen’s cross pass to the goal.

Yallop said there was no real leader on defense last season and that Bernardez has brought that role.

“That’s his norm,” Yallop said. “He leads by example. He’s the type of player others thrive off.”

San Jose allowed 48 goals this past season, and Yallop knew the defense needed to be fixed in the offseason.

“Team defense is everything,” he said. “It’s only one game, but we’re difficult to score against. We hold the ball better. If we continue and do what I ask the players to do, we have a chance.”

Aside from the team’s defense, the Earthquakes struggled to score a year ago, finishing tied with Portland for 14th in the league in goals scored.

Forward Chris Wondolowski was tied with a MLS-best 16 goals this past season and picked up where he left off by scoring the team’s lone goal Saturday.

Last season, San Jose split the two matches against Houston last season. The Dynamo were the runner-up for the MLS Cup.

“We had a solid preseason,” Yallop said. “We’ve got to keep it going. Houston is a very difficult team.”
Rain may also play a factor come Saturday, which might prevent the Earthquakes from getting a feel for the field at AT&T.

Doubleheader ends with Olympic warmup

The Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo are slated to get Saturday’s soccer doubleheader started, but an exhibition match between Mexico and Senegal will cap off the day at AT&T Park.

The Mexican and Senegal national teams will use the match as a warmup for their qualifying matches for the Summer Olympics in London.

It will be the first time these nations meet while using their under-23 teams.

Following this match, Mexico will head back to Southern California for three qualifying matches, with the first coming March 23 against Trinidad and Tobago.

Senegal is still waiting to find out its opponent for the African qualifying playoffs.

Neither team reached the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Soccer in The City

WHO: MLS, Earthquakes vs. Houston Dynamo; national exhibition, Mexico vs. Senegal
WHEN: Saturday, 2 and 4:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet California (MLS game)
INFO: www.sjearthquakes.com
TICKETS: www.tickets.com

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By Al Saracevic