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San Jose Earthquakes prepare for defensive battle against high-flying Colorado Rapids

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With Colorado next up on the schedule, interim San Jose Earthquakes coach Mark Watson told reporters last week that he and his staff would be paying close attention to the Rapids’ matchup against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

What they saw could not have been encouraging.

With the Rapids hanging a season-high five goals on a contender for the Supporters’ Shield crown, Colorado (13-9-9) will be bringing plenty of momentum to Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday night to face a desperate Earthquakes side (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“I think it just reaffirms something we already knew: that Colorado’s a good team, a dangerous attacking team, and going to be a very difficult opponent for us,” Watson told on Tuesday.

Of course, the Quakes (12-11-8) have been in must-win mode for nearly a month now, and they have responded with a 3-0-1 run to edge back into the playoff picture. San Jose trail both Colorado and the LA Galaxy by four points with three matches left.

“We’ve been there for a little bit now,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski told “It’s just one of those [situations], especially at home: We want to go out there and get three points. That’s been our mentality now for a while, and nothing’s really going to change.”

The outcome tonight will likely hang on a battle of strength versus strength. Colorado are averaging 1.79 goals per match over their last 14 games, up from 1.00 to that point. On the opposite side, San Jose are allowing just 0.82 goals per game in their last 11 contests, down from 1.60 before that.

Last year’s Quakes would have relished a chance to play in a wide-open contest, but San Jose have grown cagier under Watson’s direction, which means a repeat of Deshorn Brown’s opening goal, scored just 15 seconds into the match against Seattle, should be unlikely Wednesday night.

“I think it’s going to be a closely matched game,” Wondolowski said. “Even if both teams are offensive juggernauts, I don’t see a shootout in this type of situation.”

Each team is missing three regulars due to national-team absence, suspension or injury, with Honduran internationals Víctor Bernárdez and Marvin Chávez and the suspended Steven Lenhart – who scored both San Jose goals in the teams' last meeting – all unavailable. Colorado must make do without Brown (Jamaica) and Designated Player Gabriel Torres (Panama).

Additionally, Colorado rookie Dillon Powers, third on the Rapids in minutes played, will miss the game due to concussion symptoms. That could blunt the impact of the Rapids’ midseason retooling, which included the additions of Torres and Uruguayan forward Vicente Sánchez, who already has four assists in just six league games.

“They’ve definitely added some great pieces,” San Jose right back Steven Beitashour said. “Hopefully they won’t have the same rhythm with those guys missing.”

For the Quakes, Steven Lenhart – who scored both San Jose goals in the teams' last meeting – will serve a one-game suspension following his red card against Chivas USA on Sept. 29.