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Talking Strategy: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

Following an important road win that locked D.C. United into first place in the Eastern Conference, the Black-and-Red now faces San Jose at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

“We’re in a good place,” said Goalkeeping Coach Preston Burpo. “We’re coming off a really big win at Toronto; it’s a tough place to play, and we came out of there with a win. So, mentally we’re in a good place. We’re looking forward to heading into [tonight] and putting in another good performance.”

While the Earthquakes are struggling, sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 4-7-4, the California side still has dangerous weapons United will have to be aware of. Chris Wondolowski, recently back from the World Cup with the United States Men’s National Team, poses the biggest threat.

“Emotionally for them, [Wondolowski] will be a big boost being back in the lineup," said Burpo. “We’ll have to deal with him on set pieces, with him trying to pick up second balls. In the run of play, him looking to link up with [Steven] Lenhart, and him looking to get in the box when the ball goes wide, whoever their wide guys are, they’ll want to whip balls in. His movement is fantastic; it’s one of the best in the league.”

Wondolowski isn’t San Jose’s only game-changer, though. The Earthquakes are also known for their physicality.

“Being physical with these guys,” Burpo answered when asked what it will take to be successful against SJE. “Whether it’s Lenhart up top, or it’s [Alan] Gordon— making sure we match up with that.”

United won’t solely focus on San Jose, though. The Black-and-Red has been successful this season by staying true to its identity. The visitors will have to play a very complete game to beat this Western Conference opponent.

“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and playing our game,” Burpo explained. “We need to find Eddie [Johnson] up top, get guys playing off of him. We need to link up with our outside backs, get them forward and get service for Eddie. For the backline, making sure they have a nice tight game and for Hamid, making sure he does what he’s been doing all year.”

Before United can execute though, the coaching staff had to make sure the travel and time change doesn’t affect the squad. Friday's practice was pushed back a bit, and was followed by massage and foam roll sessions and drills to get the flight out of their legs. The players are ready for battle.

“Guys look good and are in good spirits,” Burpo stated. “We’re looking forward to the game.”

D.C. United takes on the San Jose Earthquakes at 11 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Network. Tune in or join the conversation by following @dcunited and @dcumatchday.