SAN JOSE -- The Earthquakes won't ease into the 2013 season Sunday night when they face Real Salt Lake in a marquee match featuring the top two teams of the Western Conference last year.
San Jose went 19-6-9 in winning the '12 Supporters' Shield with a league-best 66 points. Salt Lake finished second in the West with a club-record 17 victories.
Although both rosters look different today everyone expects a heated rivalry to continue after the Quakes swept Real in three games last year. San Jose outscored RSL 10-2, including a 5-0 victory in July in which Chris Wondolowski netted three goals.
"We beat them three times last year so they aren't going to take that lightly," midfielder Shea Salinas said. "They are definitely going to try to come out and put one on us.
"It's our mission to make sure they don't."
The Quakes went undefeated at Buck Shaw until losing in the second leg of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Now they begin their sixth -- and final -- season at the 10,500-seat stadium in Santa Clara before planning to move into a new facility in San Jose next year.
It's anybody's guess as to what might unfold Sunday because of revised lineups. Coach Frank Yallop doesn't have much choice with five starters still recovering from offseason surgeries and midfielder Simon Dawkins playing for Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
"The first of the season always difficult," Salinas said. "You don't know how teams
If the preseason is an indicator the Quakes hope new forward Mike Fucito continues to mesh with reigning MVP Wondolowski. It's been Salinas' job to make sure they do.
Now in his sixth season the midfielder appears ready for a breakout in San Jose.
"He's a young man now, not a little boy," Yallop said.
Coach Jason Kries re-tooled Real's roster after the team fell to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semifinals.
Salt Lake no longer has dangerous strikers Justin Braun (traded to Toronto) and Fabian Espindola (traded to New York). It also traded midfielder Will Johnson to Portland and center back Jamison Olave to New York.
Kries also doesn't have midfielder Javier Morales, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. As a result RSL will rely on an attacking midfielder Quakes fans know well -- Khari Stephenson. San Jose didn't pick up his option last year in a financial move.
Real also is missing injured defenders Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert, leaving the defense to a young backline.
Yallop might be without right back Dan Gargan, who is replacing all-star Steven Beitashour (sports hernia injury).
Gargan is suffering from a slight quadriceps muscles strain. If the veteran can't play Ty Harden or rookie Peter McGlynn will take his place.
Yallop's concern is the collective play overall.
"We're hopefully going to be on the front foot," he said. "I just don't want us to come out flat expecting to win. We've got to prove it."