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Friday, August 10, 2012

San Jose Earthquakes ready for Saturday's rematch with Seattle Sounders - San Jose Mercury News

SANTA CLARA -- After the Seattle Sounders knocked the Earthquakes out of the U.S. Open Cup in June, Chris Wondolowski said he wouldn't want to be the referee in the rematch.

Well, the rematch has arrived. Hold on to your yellow cards.

The first-place Quakes host the Sounders Saturday night in a pivotal MLS Western Conference game at Buck Shaw Stadium. Fresh from a bye week, the Quakes (13-5-5, 44 points) lead second-place Real Salt Lake by two points and Seattle by seven.

Wondolowski dismisses any vendetta factor from the 1-0 loss to the Sounders in the Open Cup quarterfinals at Kezar Stadium -- a testy affair in which Seattle star Eddie Johnson punched backup defender Jed Zayner after the final whistle. Forward Steven Lenhart also absorbed a hard blow to the head in the match, which ultimately sidelined him for three weeks with concussion symptoms.

But no hard feelings, right?

"There's been a little time," Wondolowski said. "I can't say that the hatchet is buried, but I think that nothing's going to be dirty, nothing's going to be over the line. I can definitely say that on our side.

"I know that we're going to go out and tackle hard. We'll fight and scrap and do all the little things, but we're not going to go over the line."

Zayner has long since moved on from the incident.

"Water under the bridge," Zayner said recently. "Nothing happened to me, so I didn't care that nothing happened to him (Johnson). I did

get punched, but it's over and done."

In the teams' MLS meeting, Wondolowski converted a penalty kick in a 1-0 win over Seattle on March 31. Wondolowski, who leads the league with 17 goals, has four goals in seven career matches against Seattle. The Sounders are on a six-game MLS unbeaten streak, including an impressive 4-0 rout of the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend.

Quakes wing Marvin Chavez, who had been out with a left hamstring strain, should start. But target forward Alan Gordon, who ranks second on the team with nine goals, will begin serving a two-game suspension for a combination of yellow-card accumulation and a red card in a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on July 28.

Then again, Gordon and Lenhart have been on a hot-streak rotation all season. If one bows out, the other delivers.

Lenhart returned from his injury by scoring the tying goal against Chicago, on a dramatic shot in stoppage time. He struck twice more as a late substitute in a friendly against England's Swansea City last week.

Quakes coach Frank Yallop marvels at Lenhart's uncanny ability to score on call.

"That's Lenny," Yallop said. "He's just a bubbly character that doesn't mind if he trains every day or if he doesn't get to practice, or if he comes off the bench, or whatever he's doing. He's just a character, a real good teammate and a good guy to have around. He sort of embodies our spirit."

Yallop brushes off the Open Cup debacle with Seattle, considering it not relevant to Saturday's game.

"It's forgotten," Yallop said. "Our guys are not even thinking about it. We've not even brought it up all week. That was that game. It wasn't good. I wasn't pleased with what went on, but that's in the past now. "

Quakes left back Justin Morrow is excited that the Quakes get back to MLS action.

"It's a big game (on Saturday) because we're both fighting to win the league," Morrow said. "Both are good teams. ... I just hope it's a good, clean game. I don't want it to get too rough, too out of hand. That ruins the game a little bit."

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