Quakes look to surge

Tim Hunt
Date Published: 

SAN JOSE—Optimism continues to prevail in the camp of the San Jose Earthquakes.

Despite a 6-6 record and a fifth place standing in the North American Soccer League's Southern Division, the Quakes aren't disheartened.

San Jose is banking on a midseason surge, similar to one last year, which took the Quakes to the top of the Southern Division.

However, it better start soon, like tonight against the Rochester Lancers.

Earthquake president Milan Mandaric, speaking Thursday at the club's weekly luncheon, emphasized, "I promise we'll make the playoffs. That's our goal. It's very important that we win the next two games."

San Jose hosts Rochester, which is 4-6, tonight at Spartan Stadium and then will try to avenge a road loss to Las Vegas next Saturday.

Mandaric and the entire Quake organization realize that a return to a pattern of consistent wins is mandatory, if the Earthquakes are to make a move on the division leaders.

Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which face off Sunday at the LA Coliseum, are currently setting the pace in the Southern Division. The Aztecs are 8-3 with 71 points, while Vegas is 9-3 with 70 points. Hawaii moved into third with its 4-1 thumping of Rochester with a 7-7 record and 59 points, while Dallas is fourth at 6-5 and 56 points.

The Quakes are 6-6 with 52 points after a tough 1-0 loss in Minnesota last week to the red-hot Kicks.

Rochester has never beaten San Jose outdoors, although the Lancers did end the Quakes' hopes of back-to-back indoor tournament titles with a 6-4 triumph last year in Tampa Bay.

The Lancers, however, have been quite unpredictable, shocking Tampa Bay, one of the NASL's strongest franchises just two weeks ago 2-1.

San Jose played quite defensively against a very quick Minnesota squad last week, but will probably try to open things up more on the friendly Spartan Stadium turf. Injuries to Ilija Mitic (out for a month with a reinjured groin muscle) and Leroy DeLeon (bruised hip) have sapped some of coach Gabbo Gavric's offensive flexibility.

DeLeon is supposed to be able return to action this week on the left wing, which would allow Gavric to go with his normal four fullbacks, newcomer Trevor Hockey at defensive midfield, Tony Simoes and Alan Birchenall at the other midfield spots, with Paul Child, Geoff Davies and DeLeon up front.

Child, who is third in NASL scoring with 15 points moved into fourth place on the all-time league scoring list recently.

RUMBLINGS: Tonight is the first of the team's Tailgate Party games. Prior to the contest, live music and other festivities will be going.