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Matias Almeyda says he is not bothered by any criticism aimed at the San Jose Earthquakes as his side looks to stretch its unbeaten run when it hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps on Friday night.

The Quakes beat Los Angeles FC 2-1 last weekend to make it seven games without defeat, and the victory brought San Jose within two points of the Western Conference playoffs.

San Jose may be building some momentum with two wins in its last three games, but it was recently branded a “dirty” side by Sporting Kansas City striker Daniel Salloi.

Salloi went as far to suggest that the Quakes do not deserve to win any points because of their style of play, but Almeyda is taking no notice of what others think of his side.

“I don’t care about what they say,” he told reporters. “These are players with bad intentions. Our players are forced to respect the shirt they put on.”

Like opponents San Jose, the Whitecaps enter Friday’s contest on a long unbeaten run that spans five matches, albeit the last four of those games have all finished square.

The Caps earned a credible 1-1 draw at the high-flying LA Galaxy last time out, and head coach Marc dos Santos has been impressed by his side’s improved form in recent weeks.

“We lost a number of games and then heavily to Real Salt Lake. The players could easily have put their heads down and given up. That’s what’s impressed me most,” he said. “We addressed some things in the second half in the last match, changed some pieces tactically, and got what we wanted.”

Vancouver has been dealt an injury blow ahead of its trip to PayPal Park, as striker Lucas Cavallini has been ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

San Jose Earthquakes – Cade Cowell

Cowell has gone four games without a goal involvement but has done enough in the first half of the campaign to become the youngest player included in an MLS All-Star team.

The 17-year-old was the first MLS player this season to tally four goals and four assists. The Quakes will need him on top of his game if they are to overcome the Whitecaps.

Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

With Cavallini out until the end of September, the Whitecaps will lean on fellow designated player Gauld, who nearly scored a volley in a 13-minute cameo against the Galaxy in his debut.

The 25-year-old was voted the best player in Portugal’s second tier with Farense last year and will be eager to hit the ground running in a new division.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Whitecaps ended a four-match losing streak against San Jose with a 2-1 win in the last meeting between the sides in October. Vancouver has won just one of its 12 matches in San Jose, however (D6 L5), including losing the last two matches at PayPal Park.

– San Jose’s 2-1 win over Los Angeles FC on Sunday extended its unbeaten run to seven games (W2 D5). This is the Earthquakes’ longest unbeaten run since an eight-match streak from September 2013 to March 2014 (W5 D3).

– The Whitecaps have played four consecutive draws, the third team to do so this season after San Jose and the Houston Dynamo. No team drew four straight games in the 2019 or 2020 seasons, and the last team to play at least five straight draws was the Chicago Fire from March-April 2014 (six straight).

– Chris Wondolowski has scored 14 goals against Vancouver in his MLS career, which is more than he has managed against any other team. Wondolowski’s 14 goals against the Whitecaps are the most by any player against a single opponent in MLS since Vancouver joined the league in 2011.

– Nine of Vancouver’s 19 goals this season (47 percent) have come on set pieces, including their equalizer against the Galaxy off a corner on Sunday. Only Atlanta United (48 percent) has scored a higher percentage of goals on set pieces.

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