Earthquakes-Rapids Preview

The Associated Press

The Colorado Rapids are feeling good after pulling out a tough road win without their leading scorer.

The San Jose Earthquakes are coming off another disappointing first half and mired in the worst start in franchise history.

With Vicente Sanchez expected back in the lineup, the Rapids appear poised to halt a seven-game winless stretch against the struggling Earthquakes on Saturday.

Edson Buddle scored his 99th MLS goal to lift Colorado (3-1-1) to a 1-0 win over Toronto FC last Saturday, the franchise's first victory in seven trips to Toronto.

"There was only a few spells of decent soccer being played out there," coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "The rest of it was grit, rolling up your sleeves, second balls and battles. That's what I said to the guys going in. This game is not going to be about soccer, it's going to be about determination and will and fight and getting those second balls and shielding and putting balls in dangerous spots.

"We were up against a good team and the effort was tremendous and it's definitely a performance to build on."

Not only did the Rapids defeat the Eastern Conference's second-best team, they prevailed without Sanchez, who was with his wife for the birth of their first child. Sanchez has scored half of the Rapids' eight goals and was back training with his teammates Tuesday.

Midfielder Dillon Serna returned last week after missing the previous three games due to injury, and his pass to Dillon Powers set up Buddle's winner. A native of suburban Denver, Serna, whose only game with the Rapids last season came on the road, is set to make his home debut.

"All three games that I've appeared in have been away, so it'll be a good homecoming for me," he told the Rapids' official website. "I'm just super, super excited. My family has been waiting for this."

Rapids fans haven't had much to cheer about lately in this series, with their team losing the last three matchups in Colorado. The Rapids are 0-5-2 against the Earthquakes since a 2-1 win in San Jose on Aug. 13, 2011.

Colorado could be primed to end that slide given that the Earthquakes (0-2-2) are winless after four matches for the first time in their 17-year history.

In Saturday's 1-all draw with Columbus, Chris Wondolowski scored the equalizer in the 51st minute. San Jose has been outscored 5-1 in the first half.

"I was a little disappointed with our start again," coach Mark Watson told the league's official website. "That's something we'll have to address."

Besides starting slowly, San Jose needs to find scoring from somebody other than Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez. Wondolowski, who has eight goals in 16 career games versus Colorado, has scored three this year while Bernardez has the other two for the Earthquakes, who are tied for league's second-fewest goals.

However, generating offense could be tough against the Rapids, whose five goals allowed are tied for second-fewest in MLS.

Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin earned the shutout last weekend to win his second straight start after missing the first three games due to injury. He has stopped nine of 10 shots.

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