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Real Salt Lake-Earthquakes Preview

By JEFF BARTL

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The last time the San Jose Earthquakes started this well, they went on to win the MLS Cup.

They'll have to overcome injuries to key players in order to stay hot.

San Jose looks to end a winless drought against first-place Real Salt Lake in a meeting of the Western Conference's top teams Saturday night.

The Earthquakes (4-1-1) are off to their best six-game start since beginning 4-0-2 in 2003, when they last won the league title. Chris Wondolowski scored his seventh goal - tied for the MLS lead - in the 35th minute as San Jose played New York to a 2-all draw last Saturday.

However, the contest proved costly as midfielder Shea Salinas and defender Victor Bernardez will miss significant time after suffering injuries near the end of the first half.

Salinas fractured his left clavicle after a hard tackle by New York's Rafa Marquez, who was suspended three games for the play. Salinas will have surgery and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

Bernardez sprained his left MCL and will be out 4-6 weeks.

Coach Frank Yallop didn't seem too concerned, though.

"I don't expect the team to suffer from the two guys getting injured, and that's by design," Yallop told the league's official website. "We're covered in all spots and not lacking in the quality that comes off the bench."

Wondolowski said he's confident the Earthquakes have enough talent on the bench to make up for the injuries.

"The good thing is that we have an extremely deep team, and when you can bring Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara and Simon Dawkins off the bench, you're not missing much," Wondolowski said.

"I know with our team, we can go all the way down to the 28th guy and we still have 100 percent faith in them."

Wondolowski hasn't scored in any of his five career games against Real Salt Lake, and San Jose has gone 0-3-2 since last winning in this series - 2-1 on May 30, 2009.

The Earthquakes will look to end that drought by sending Salt Lake (5-2-0) to a second straight defeat after it fell 1-0 at Kansas City last Saturday.

RSL's three-game winning streak came to an end as it played the first of three straight on the road.

"We had some chances toward the end, but now we have to turn our focus to the next game," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said.

Coach Jason Kreis said his club had to adjust its game after Sporting KC's goal because Salt Lake hasn't played from behind much this season.

"The thing about giving the goal away was that now it turned our attention to, 'How are we going to attack?'" Kreis said. "I think we were a little too content to defend for most of the night."

Kyle Beckerman scored in Salt Lake's 1-0 win at San Jose on March 19, 2011, then RSL swept the season series by winning 4-0 on July 23 as Alvaro Saborio had two goals and an assist.

Updated April 20, 2012

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