SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes announced Thursday that tickets for their first home playoff date will go on sale next week.
To the league-leading Quakes, though, the postseason feels like it’s practically here already, beginning with their trip Saturday to Seattle, who sit second in the Western Conference. A win would put San Jose on the brink of their first Supporters’ Shield since 2005. A loss opens the door for Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City to move into a tie – or even for a team like the Sounders to creep back into the picture.
“These are the games that really matter,” San Jose forward Alan Gordon said of facing the Sounders at CenturyLink Field. “These are the games that we’re going to have to be playing in the playoffs, regardless of [winning] the Supporters’ Shield or not. We’ve got to play good teams at their home, and we’ve got to do well and come out with points.”
San Jose will fly north still feeling the bracing effect of a 2-2 tie against Portland on Wednesday, a result that the Quakes almost gave away in the 95th minute by letting Franck Songo’o scythe through their defense on a counterattack, feeding Bright Dike for a shot from 12 yards that somehow skittered wide moments before the final whistle.
“It's a wake-up call," Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “That goes in and we lose 3-2, we’re kicking ourselves. It’s not the end of the world. I think it’s a reality check for us. We’ve got to know that we have to bring our ‘A’ game for 90 minutes, moving forward.
“Everybody wants a piece of us, because we’re at the top of the league.”
For Chris Wondolowski, whose brace saved the Quakes’ 16-match unbeaten streak at Buck Shaw Stadium, the tie against a Portland squad that hasn’t won all year on the road shows that San Jose can’t afford to slack off. A postseason berth may be clinched, but the seeding is still very much up for grabs.
“We still need a win,” Wondolowski said. “It kind of fires us up a bit. I wouldn’t say we were in a lull, but it’s almost a playoff atmosphere. Each game is going to be a battle. We can’t make silly mistakes. We’ve got to be a little bit sharper.”
The Quakes can be heartened by the fact that they came back from a two-goal deficit to pick up points for the third time in six such games this year. San Jose also did so in beating the LA Galaxy on May 23 (a 3-2 win) and June 30 (a 4-3 final).
“Frank said it right, if we go up 2-0 and they come back on us and we get a point, it’s a disappointment,” Gordon said. “This just keeps us going upwards ... You’ve just got to give us credit for never saying die. I mean, it’s real. If there are any non-believers out there, if they watched tonight, then they should be believers now, because we’ve done it all season. It’s not luck. It’s no mistake. It’s hard work, determination and belief.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.