SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes may be changing competitions, but their task remains the same: Capture a must-win game.
The Quakes will shift gears Tuesday from their attempted MLS playoff push to the CONCACAF Champions League, with a victory against the Montreal Impact needed just to stay alive in Group 5 (10 pm ET, Fox Sports 2).
After losing both CCL road matches by a 1-0 count, San Jose have to beat the Impact in order to have any shot of making their group-play finale – Oct. 23 against Guatemalan side Heredia, the current leaders on six points – meaningful.
“It’s tough, but this team does a good job of just putting their head down and playing, no matter what the circumstances are or what the situation is,” San Jose forward Alan Gordon said of jumping from MLS to CCL. “League play or not, we’re going to go out there and play our best.”
San Jose should have plenty of options available for interim coach Mark Watson. Midfielder Rafael Baca and forward Steven Lenhart, who were suspended for the Quakes’ scoreless tie with Vancouver on Saturday, will presumably feature.
Watson has said repeatedly that he thinks the Quakes will be judged first and foremost on whether they make the MLS postseason, so it remains to be seen how full a lineup he will field Tuesday. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch thinks it will be a strong group.
“We want to try to win every trophy we can,” Busch told reporters Saturday. “And that’s another trophy. We take it very seriously in this locker room. And I know Mark takes it very seriously, and the staff. It’s another game that we know we need to win.”
So far, Busch has not had a role in CCL play. David Bingham, the Quakes’ No. 2 goalkeeper, got the first two starts.
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“I’m a player; I want to play,” Busch said. “I always want to play. If they want me to play, I’ll play. No big deal. I know how to get ready on a short timetable. If they want to give David the game, they give David the game. I’m a player, they’re the coaches. I don’t make those decisions.”
To Gordon, there’s a possible win-win aspect to the mid-week match. A victory against Montreal would not only keep the Quakes alive in the CCL but also give them an attacking boost heading into a critical – and critically difficult – match against Real Salt Lake in the thin air of Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE). San Jose have just one goal in their four games across all competitions.
“It’ll give us a game to work on things offensively, get the ball in the back of the next and get rolling from that aspect,” Gordon said. “Maybe we can focus on that and just look to build going into a tough game on the road against Salt Lake.”