86Forever had the pleasure of speaking to "Quake, Rattle and Goal" blog manager Robert Jonas over the week. Here's his thoughts on the match, which is coming up in just a few hours.
1) Chris Wondolowski had a banner year in 2012, but only has the two goals so far in 2013. Is he struggling, and if he is, what should be done?
For his career, Wondolowski has been converting his scoring opportunities at a nearly 20% pace. Even last year during his MLS record setting season of 27 goals, that percentage was consistently at that level. However, to start the 2013 season, Wondo has seen his conversion of chances drop close to 10%. He is still getting shots, many on target, but only one goal from the run of play. He is certainly struggling, but those struggles should begin to dissipate now that target forward partners Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart are rounding into shape. Gordon saw his first minutes of the season in the Earthquakes last match, and Lenhart is expected to play a role this weekend against Vancouver. With either or both of those guys in the line-up, Wondolowski can go back to doing what he does best: off the ball movement to get in position to finish set-ups from his striking partners.
2) These two teams played some truly exciting matches against each other last season. Has much changed from the Earthquakes game from a year ago?
Not really. The players that have stepped in for the long list of injured regular starters have been well trained in head coach Frank Yallop's preferred tactics: get the ball wide with pace and provide a constant feed of balls into the box. Because the Earthquakes have been missing the likes of Lenhart and Gordon, as well as defender Steven Beitashour and winger Marvin Chavez, the well oiled Quakes scoring machine has disappointed thus far in 2013, but they still escaped the month of March with 7 points from 5 games -- a perfect .500 record. Once the first choice starters are all integrated back into the line-up, expect the Earthquakes to return to their high-scoring ways of 2012,
3) If Wondo doesn't reach the same level of scoring as last year, who needs to step up for the Quakes?
Last season, while Wondolowski was collecting 27 goals, his striker partners Gordon and Lenhart together tallied 23 goals -- if all by one player would have been a top-ten MLS season of all time. Replacements Adam Jahn, a Supplemental Draft pick rookie, and Mike Fucito, a well traveled journeyman, have combined for only 1 goal in the Quakes 5 season opening games, so they'll need to do more with the opportunities they are presented. Outside of the forwards, like else in the way of goals looks likely on the horizon, especially with the loss of Simon Dawkins to Aston Villa. Maybe midfielder Rafael Baca will step up his scoring game this season? He has shown the occasionally flash of brilliance in front of goal in his 2 MLS seasons, but it remains to be seen whether he can be counted on to contribute to the scoring sheet.
4) Lastly, Joe Cannon might get the start tomorrow. He obviously has some Earthquakes connections. Should he expect any sort of welcome from the 'Quakes faithful, or is it past that point now?
Cannon will always be appreciated by the Earthquakes faithful, and not only for what he has done for the team on the field. A former MLS goalkeeper of the year, Cannon might be better remembered in the Bay Area for his amazing dedication to philanthropic causes. Numerous groups both associated with the club and the community have benefited from what he has been able to provide. Add to that his affable personality, which always made a conversation with Cannon seem personable and enjoyable, and he will always be welcome in San Jose.