Real Salt Lake, San Jose battle for West supremacy

The San Jose Earthquakes are off to a great start this year, and coach Frank Yallop was confident injuries to two important players would not negatively impact the club.

Midfielder Shea Salinas suffered a fractured clavicle after being fouled by Red Bull New York's Rafa Marquez, and on the play late in the first half last week, Victor Bernardez injured his knee in a separate incident.

Both have been sidelined for extended periods, leaving Yallop short on options, but not worried, when Real Salt Lake visits Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday.

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

In addition to the loss of that duo, Marvin Chavez earned a one-game suspension for a bad foul as San Jose (4-1-1) tied New York, 2-2, and will sit this week.

Yallop will be happy to have Chris Wondolowski against Real, as the striker has seven goals this year - tied with New York's Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry for the MLS lead - and has 10 in his last 11 games dating back to last season.

Wondolowski had a goal and an assist last week, and Yallop felt the squad could have even defeated New York.

"Once the game settled down a little bit we had the better of the play," Yallop said. "especially in the second half.

"With all the stuff that happened ... with the two injuries in the first half, it was a great result for us. I thought we bossed the game, to be honest, and were a little bit unlucky not to score the winning goal."

San Jose's depth will be tested this weekend, as Real (5-2-0) visits for a game featuring the top two Western Conference sides. Real sits atop the table with a two-point lead over San Jose.

RSL suffered its second loss of the season last weekend, 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City, but should threaten San Jose's four-game unbeaten streak.

Although Sporting, which has won all seven of its games this season, edged Real last weekend, midfielder Kyle Beckerman talked about a rematch - something that can only happen in the MLS Cup final.

"We'd love to see these guys again. That'll drive us to work even harder and come back and hopefully get another chance at them in the playoffs," Beckerman said. "We'll lick our wounds and come back and learn from it, and work harder."

Real does have wins over the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York to its credit this season and, behind Sporting, looks like the second-best team in the league. But that status will be put to the test again this weekend.

"I thought we were ready, I thought we played well, but set pieces can decide a game. And tonight that's what happened," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said after the loss to Sporting.

"Now we have to turn our focus to the next game."