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Earthquakes, Crew stuck in skids
Neither the San Jose Earthquakes nor Columbus Crew SC expected to be dealing with long winless streaks, but that's the reality for their matchup in Ohio on Saturday.
San Jose (1-3-2) is 11th in the Western Conference thanks to a 0-3-2 stretch since winning their first match of the season.
The Crew (3-3-2) are on a similar path. After three wins and a tie in its first four games, three straight losses were followed by a 2-2 tie versus New England last week to leave Columbus tied for fourth with the Revolution in the Eastern Conference.
There were some positives for the Crew in their last match, such as ending a 150-minute scoreless streak, but the draw with New England also saw Columbus twice surrender leads.
"In the past few matches in the first half, we had most of the possession," Crew defender Milton Valenzuela said. "The second half we gave away the ball a little bit more. But in the last match we were able to retain the ball more. That allowed us to play better."
The Earthquakes have led in four matches this season. A 3-2 loss at Orlando City SC in their most recent match was not among them. San Jose allowed two goals in the first half and trailed 3-0 before Florian Jungwirth scored twice in the final 10 minutes.
San Jose is 0-2-1 on the road this season and is 1-10-2 in their past 13 away matches. Worse, the Earthquakes are 0-2-3 with two goals scored in their past five trips to Columbus.
"It's a difficult stretch, 10 days on the road here, but the guys are up for the challenge and we'll come away with some good results," Earthquakes forward Quincy Amarikwa said.
The match at Mapfre Stadium has the potential to be entertaining.
"It's an attacking team against an attacking team so we need to have more ball possession," Valenzuela said. "It's going to go back and forth, up and down."
Crew coach Gregg Berhalter is fine with that.
"We have to continue to play with speed," he said. "We have a fast group that is very technical. We can play at a high tempo. We need to keep that in mind at all times."
Berhalter can rely on Federico Higuain to drive the attack awhile longer after the Designated Player signed a contract extension through the 2019 season Thursday.
San Jose Swedish midfielder Magnus Eriksson was signed as a DP before the season and has played like it. After being held off the scoresheet in his first match, he has two goals and three assists in the past five games.
"It's always challenging to move to a new country, but I think I've adjusted OK," he said. "I feel really comfortable now. I feel like I'm in good shape and I've enjoyed the time to get to know my teammates."
Of note, the next appearance by Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski will be his 300th in MLS.
Updated April 26, 2018