• Wednesday Mar 19, 2014

    At high elevation, Toluca and San Jose are level

    Steven Lenhart (blue jersey) of the San Jose Earthquakes and Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera jump high for a ball during their CONCACAF Champions League match on March 11, 2014, in Santa Clara, California. (Photo: Denis Concordel/www.widgic.com)

    TOLUCA, Mexico – Last December, when the San Jose Earthquakes learned they were going to meet Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) quarterfinals, head coach Mark Watson quickly realized a good “off-the-field” game plan was necessary.

    After all, Toluca is 9,000 feet above sea level, the highest elevation at which the Earthquakes would play in their history.

    San Jose needs a win or a tie in which it scores at least two goals at the Estadio Nemesio Diez on Wednesday to reach the semifinal stage.  So, every little bit will help the team.

    “We started looking at this game at the end of last season because we knew we needed a plan,” Watson said.  “We spoke to a number of experts in the field of altitude training, including Olympic team doctors and our own team doctors at Stanford.  They gave us recommendations and we are executing those in order for our players maximize the performance.”

    The Earthquakes, who overcame a two-goal deficit in the second half to tie Real Salt Lake (3-3) in their league season-opener on Saturday, flew to Mexico City the next day.  Until Tuesday, in an effort to ease the transition to full altitude, they lodged at an elevation about half that of Toluca.

    San Jose's defense will be bolstered by the return of central defender and United States international Clarence Goodson, who sat out the opening leg due to a suspension.

    “We are feeling good right now,” said Goodson.  “We thought we played a very good game at home and we are a bit disappointed that we did not score more goals based on the chances that we created.  It is a one-off on Wednesday, so anything can happen.  We know that we are going to have to defend well and the longer we can keep it at 0-0, the better for us.  We have proven time and time again that we can score goals and score goals late.”

    San Jose managed a 1-1 home draw in the first leg last week on substitute Alan Gordon's header five minutes into second-half stoppage time, after Raul Nava – the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals -- tallied for Toluca.

    The Red Devils (8-1-2, 25 points) are second to Cruz Azul (9-1-1, 28 points) in the Liga MX Clasura.  They are coming off a 2-0 away win over Queretaro on Friday and should be rested for the encounter.

    "Getting a good result on Wednesday is very important to us," Toluca's Miguel Ponce said.  "We want to move forward in this tournament and not only that, we want to win this tournament.  We must work very well these days to deal with this game against San Jose, which will be very difficult and very intense.  The mindset is to win."

    MLS teams have not fared well in Mexico in CCL competition, registering a 2-5-26 (w-d-l) record and being outscored 89-29 prior to Tuesday’s quarterfinal encounter between host Club Tijuana and the LA Galaxy.  An MLS side has never won a knockout-round match in Mexico, having gone 0-2-7.  The last MLS team to win there was the Seattle Sounders, who bested Monterrey in the group stage in 2011. 

    CCL GAME NOTES
    Toluca vs San Jose Earthquakes

  • Champions League

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