The San Jose Earthquakes play their first official match in 2014 on Tuesday and face a stiff test from Toluca in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
The Quakes, in the competition after winning the Supporters' Shield in 2012, haven't played a non-preseason match since Oct. 26, the MLS regular season finale. Toluca has played — and played well — often since then, making the semifinals of the Apertura before a bright start to the current tournament. The Red Devils currently sit second with a 7-2-1 record in the Liga MX Clausura.
Much of the club's success has come thanks to Liga MX best XI candidate Isaac Brizuela scoring three goals and setting up several more. The 23-year-old is having a breakout season, earning plaudits from none other than Mexico manager Miguel Herrera for his league form.
The Quakes will try to stop Brizuela and the strong Toluca attack with a familiar center back pairing. Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson anchor the line, but fullbacks Brandon Barklage and Jordan Stewart are less experienced. They'll get a boost with reports indicating longtime Toluca playmaker Sinha didn't travel for the match after suffering a knee injury in Friday's 3-0 win against Puebla and leaving the match on a stretcher in the 35th minute.
San Jose will be without new acquisitions Andreas Gorlitz, who picked up a minor injury in preseason, and Yannick Djalo, whose signing was only announced yesterday. Midfielder Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi will likely make his Earthquakes debut after joining from Ajaccio in the offseason.
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