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Earthquakes, Union prepare for tough conditions
The Philadelphia Union and the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking for their first wins since their season openers when they meet in possible wintry conditions on Saturday night in Pennsylvania.
The Earthquakes may have the tougher challenge with their cross-country trip to Talen Energy Stadium, where forecasts are calling for a potential rain-snow mix around kickoff.
And San Jose (1-2-0) is coming off back-to-back losses, most recently a 2-1 home defeat to still-unbeaten New York City FC after taking an early lead.
In that match, two New York goals in a stretch of 12 minutes marred a performance in which San Jose led 19-9 in shots and 10-3 in efforts on target.
"It slipped away, and there's a little period there of 10-15 minutes where we gave up two goals and it kind of changed the result of the game," Earthquakes defender Nick Lima said. "But when you take a step back and look at it, we had our moments and we put the press on and we had our chances, quite a few more chances than them."
The Earthquakes also conceded twice after halftime in their loss at Sporting Kansas City two weeks earlier and have allowed at least two goals in all three of their matches this season.
But while many teams choose to play with a lone forward, the Earthquakes' two-striker system has proved capable of troubling defenses. Strike partners Danny Hoesen and Chris Wondolowski have combined for three goals, and midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili has two goals and two assists playing behind them.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is coming off a 3-0 loss last weekend at Colorado, another side that deploys two strikers. Dominique Badji hit up Philadelphia for his first career hat trick.
Union coach Jim Curtin expects the Earthquakes to present a different kind of challenge.
"Colorado was a lot of long balls, a lot of fighting for second balls," Curtin said. "Whereas, (San Jose) is a front four that has a lot of interchange and they want the ball at their feet and they combine really well."
Meanwhile, Philadelphia (1-1-1) hasn't scored since winning its opener 2-0 more than a month ago against a New England team that finished with nine men.
Like the Earthquakes, the Union will also be playing on consecutive weekends for the first time this season after having two bye weekends in March. That continuity may be welcome for a team still trying to find its offensive chemistry since the offseason additions of winger David Accam and playmaking midfielder Borek Dockal.
"I'm very confident that the group will have a good response to our first loss," Curtin said. "And obviously that starts with playing the right way, playing how we've shown we can this year, and now getting those three points at home."
Philadelphia's defense will continue to be short-handed without Fabinho (meniscus surgery), Richie Marquez (sports hernia surgery) and Josh Yaro (hip strain).
Updated April 5, 2018