View from the Booth: All about location

like good real estate -- is all about location, location, location.

With a 1-0 win Saturday night in Foxborough, Mass., the Quakes have 34 points and are in fourth place, and just four points from first in the Western Conference, although they're only two points out of last place. With a 3-1 win Saturday night against the Galaxy in Columbus, the Crew has 34 points and sit in first place in the Eastern Conference.

As they come into Wednesday night's battle with the Quakes at Spartan Stadium, the Crew has gone 11 consecutive games without a loss (4-0-7) and moved into first place. The Quakes have one of the best records in the league over the last ten games (5-3-2) and are struggling to stay out of last place. It would be a safe bet to put your money on a team from the West in this year's playoffs: four of the top five records and five of the seven best records in the league come from the Western Conference.

The Quakes could settle some regional bragging rights with a win against the Crew on Wednesday night at Spartan Stadium. The Quakes are riding a streak of four consecutive shutouts -- three of them victories. Two of the wins came on the road. The Columbus win against the Galaxy vaulted the Crew past the Metrostars into the top spot in the East, though the Crew would be no better than fourth in the West.

It really comes down to those doggone ties. The Quakes have six of them at home, which has cost them dearly in the standings. The Crew have 10 draws in their 23 games, including five in a row on the road. In a mediocre conference, mediocrity is apparently an aspiration, or the road to success.

The Quakes have now gone ten straight against the Revs without a loss. They're now 8-0-2 against New England since 2000, including a 4-0-1 record in Gillette Stadium.

A handful of players taking advantage of national team call-ups greatly impacted the game: Ian Russell's 48th-minute pass found the head of Chris Brown, who then found the back of the net; Jon Conway's shutout helps run the team's run of defensive scoreless minutes to 369, which is 12 minutes short of the Dallas Burn's best run of the season.

Coach Dominic Kinnear figures it's all in a day's work when everybody on the roster impacts the team. "That was a good team effort," he said. "It was about four or five guys defending the goal at any given time. That is the way we need to play down the stretch."

National team call-ups will again keep Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, Pat Onstad and Dwayne De Rosario out of Wednesday's game against the Crew.

Jon Conway is now 2-1 with a 0.67 goals against average in Major League Soccer action, after winning two of three in his stint as the goalkeeper in the Quakes' U.S. Open Cup run.

"We are prepared for this," he said. "This is what guys like me have been training for all year. We are ready. I think this proves that we have the deepest team in the league, because our guys know what they had to do, and tonight everybody stepped up."

You can expect the same cast of characters Wednesday night in Spartan Stadium, where the Quakes have the highest home goal-scoring total in the league: 25 in 12 games. You can also expect the Crew to play for a scoreless game and hope to steal a win. (They have three 0-0 games in their 11-game unbeaten streak.) It's not like the Quakes haven't seen that act a few times over the years at Spartan Stadium.

Columbus might be happy with a tie, but the Quakes would not be. They are really in a must-win situation. San Jose plays four of their last six games on the road, including back-to-back road games over the next two Saturdays, at Los Angeles and at Kansas City.

For the Quakes, it's all intra-conference action over the last six weeks of the season -- two games with L.A., two with Kansas City and one each with Colorado and Dallas. Despite the superior quality of the opponents, the Quakes have a better record against their Western rivals (5-3-2) than they do against those from the East (4-4-5).

Location. Location. Location.

John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.