San Jose Earthquakes return to Buck Shaw at last, hope three-game homestand is the right tonic

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Given the situation reflected in the Western Conference standings, this isn’t just a three-match homestand the San Jose Earthquakes are opening on Saturday against Seattle.

It’s potentially the Quakes’ last stand.

With San Jose needing to average better than two points per match the rest of the way if they are to have a realistic shot of cracking the ranks of the West’s playoff clubs, this upcoming stretch at home — with the Sounders coming Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week), followed by Portland (July 27) and Chivas USA (Aug. 4) — ranks as a critical one.

“We’ve had a long road stretch here,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “We’ve got some work to do, obviously, on the training field. But it’ll be nice to be home and hopefully get back on track, start picking up some points at home.”

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San Jose have played seven of their last nine on the road, but the last two combined to be one of their most painful trips of the season. The Quakes were downed by Chicago and New England in the span of four days, then had to scramble to get home after their initial return flight was canceled due to the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport last Saturday. (The team’s traveling party eventually found its way back to the Bay Area on Sunday, hours behind schedule, by flying into Oakland.)

“It’s great to be back here,” Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin said. “It was a disappointing road trip. We didn’t do enough to pick up points in either game, really. ... It makes this game this weekend that much more important.”

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San Jose are 3-1-4 at Buck Shaw this season (they also have a victory over the LA Galaxy in a home match at Stanford Stadium), with the only loss coming in the season opener against Real Salt Lake on March 3. That record is nothing compared to the 10-0-6 mark they put together at Buck Shaw during the 2012 regular season, but it’s still miles ahead of the Quakes’ 1-8-2 mark on the road this year.

“With all the issues we’ve been dealing with ... it’s been a tough stretch,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said. “We’ll look to get everyone rested and healthy — or as healthy as we can.”

Things could be looking up on that front, even though Marvin Chávez, Chris Wondolowski and new signing Clarence Goodson remain on Gold Cup duty. Center back Víctor Bernárdez is expected to return after his two-match ban for his ejection against the Galaxy two weeks ago, and forward Steven Lenhart, who missed the Fire and Revolution matches after suffering an ugly gash on his head against LA, is listed as probable on the Quakes’ injury report.