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San Jose Earthquakes face challenging schedule in June

May 25, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Ola Kamara (11) passes the ball while San Jose Earthquakes defender Jimmy Ockford (15) defends during the second half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the final whistle sounded to end the California Clasico Friday night, the San Jose Earthquakes hung their collective heads in disappointment. Romain Alessandrini’s wonder goal was the difference for the LA Galaxy, as the hosts completed a 1-0 victory over the Quakes at StubHub Center.

It was a game from which the visitors likely deserved a point — the Earthquakes defense played virtually mistake-free and allowed just a single shot on goal — but their failure to apply much pressure to the Galaxy back line kept them from making any noise on offense. It was the epitome of San Jose’s 2018 season thus far: an inability to put together a complete game on both sides of the ball.

The Quakes finished the first three months of the campaign with the second-worst points-per-game record in the Western Conference. Additionally, their nine points collected in 12 games so far is their worst start to a season since 2009. Everyone in San Jose will be more than happy to turn the page on the month of May and look forward to June.

A look at the schedule shows the Earthquakes have a busy month ahead. In addition to their entry into the U.S. Open Cup tournament — a fourth-round game at the Portland Timbers on June 6 — the Quakes play five MLS regular season games over the next four weeks.

It starts this weekend in Chicago, against a Fire side that has also seen mixed results this season. Following a break to coincide with the FIFA World Cup group stage, the month is capped off by the second installment of the Cali Clasico, June 30 at Stanford Stadium. The results of those five games will go a long way to determining San Jose’s readiness to make a summer run and reach a top-six finish in the West.

Watch: Highlights of San Jose’s Cali Clasico loss

San Jose will be without the services of two key starters, as Anibal Godoy and Harold Cummings have both been named to Panama’s 23-man World Cup roster. Godoy is a regular starter for Panama, having played an instrumental role in helping the Central American nation qualify for its first World Cup finals. Cummings, the top centerback on the Quakes will be a reserve in Russia.

With the Quakes’ season in the balance, here is a look at the upcoming June schedule, game by game, and how things might realistically shake out by the midpoint of the regular season.

June 2, at Chicago Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger and company are also struggling this year following a playoffs run in 2017. The Fire will arrive at Toyota Park following two road games this week. They won the first one — a gritty 2-1 victory at Orlando — but lost at the Philadelphia Union midweek.

Chicago Fire forward Alan Gordon (21) kicks the ball against the Montreal Impact during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Quakes’ forward Alan Gordon scored a goal in each game and has become a regular off the bench for the men in red. He is not Chicago’s primary scoring threat, but he will no doubt enjoy the opportunity to face his former club.

The Quakes might be in a perfect position to catch the Fire with tired legs, and if there was ever an away game in which they might be considered favorites, this would be the one. In five games so far this season against teams from the West, the Fire are 0-4-1, including three losses at Toyota Park. Chicago, like San Jose, is still a team in search of consistency, so whichever side finds its rhythm this weekend will be the one walking away with three points.

June 9, vs. Los Angeles FC

Coming a few days after their USOC game in Portland, the Earthquakes return to San Jose to play that other club from the Southland.

Los Angeles FC, which features a star-studded cast in its debut MLS season, will be short-handed for its visit to Avaya Stadium.

Los Angeles FC defender Steven Beitashour (3) dribbles the ball while being defended by Seattle Sounders forward Harrison Shipp (19) during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Los Angeles defeated Seattle 1-0. (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

With the World Cup looming, LAFC will likely be without the services of Marco Urena (Costa Rica), Omar Gaber (Egypt), Laurent Ciman (Belgium), and Carlos Vela (Mexico). Only Urena is currently confirmed as heading to Russia, while the other three players await their fates ahead of the June 4 roster announcement deadline.

Regardless of the absences, Bob Bradley’s men will still be ready to go. Highlighted by former Earthquakes defender Steven Beitashour, LAFC’s squad has earned an impressive 4-3-0 record away from home, the most away wins in the Western Conference. San Jose will have its own double-duty road trip to deal with leading up to the game — the Quakes capitulated to DC United the last time that scenario presented itself — making this another proverbial trap game on the calendar.

June 13, vs. New England Revolution

On short rest, the Earthquakes will have to be ready for the visit of the Revolution. San Jose will have a 10-day break in the schedule following the game, but the team can’t look past the Eastern Conference contenders.

New England will arrive at Avaya Stadium following a road game at the Chicago Fire the weekend before, so jet-lag could be an issue, but head coach Brad Friedel, recently elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, will have a full roster to work with.

Neither team has found the back of the net in the series since 2015, when New England scored twice to beat the Earthquakes 2-1 at Gillette Stadium. The last two games between the cross-continental sides have finished in scoreless draws, but with both the Revs and Quakes in the top half of the league in scoring this season, this game is certain to feature some goals. It will be critical to San Jose’s hopes of getting back into the postseason race that it finds points at home.

June 23, at Real Salt Lake

Starting with the visit to Rio Tinto Stadium later this month, the Earthquakes will play seven of eight games against teams from the Western Conference. This critical part of the calendar will give San Jose a massive opportunity to make up ground in the West and climb closer to the playoff line. Stumble out of the gate against RSL — a team the Quakes realistically need to finish ahead of in order to make the postseason — and the death knell on their 2018 campaign will sound even louder.

The Earthquakes’ previous trip to Utah came days after the total solar eclipse that soared across the country last August awed crowds from coast to coast. Real Salt Lake did its own impression of an eclipse that night, blanking the San Jose offense and cruising to a 4-0 win. It was one of last season’s many road debacles, something the Earthquakes have been able to avoid this year. Still, Rio Tinto is a tough place for opponents, so the Quakes will have their work cut out for them.

June 30, vs. LA Galaxy

Heading into last week’s Cali Clasico, the Quakes had the opportunity to accomplish what neither team has been able to do since 2005 — win three straight games in the rivalry.

Los Angeles Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, center, of Sweden, and teammates celebrate a goal by Ibrahimovic during the second half of an MLS soccer match. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Now, in contrast, San Jose will look to keep LA from sweeping the season series for the first time since 1996.

The Galaxy could be without Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos, both selected to Mexico’s preliminary World Cup roster, but they’ll likely have Zlatan Ibrahimovic available. The Swedish superstar was suspended for last Friday’s match, so his first taste of the rivalry could come in front of over 50,000 fans at Stanford Stadium.

LA have not fared very well at the Quakes’ home away from home, having tallied a single victory in six attempts. San Jose leads the series 4-1-1 down on the Farm.

Predictions

Based on the matchups, as well as the possible fatigue factor during fixture congestion, the Quakes will be favored to earn points in four of the five matches. At home, San Jose has an even money chance of beating both LA teams, while it need to capitalize on the cross-country visit of the Revolution to secure all three points. The game at Chicago is another toss-up for the Earthquakes, while the tilt at Rio Tinto will certainly be in RSL’s favor.

The most realistic outcome for the month of June is seven points from a possible 15 on offer — better than the team’s current points-per-game pace, but well short of what is needed to get back in the race. Still, with the way the schedule breaks down, earning double-digit points is not out of the question for the Quakes, but they will need to show improvement and consistency in order to do.

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