SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A slow grin crept across the face of San Jose Earthquakes interim coach Mark Watson as he briefly pondered whether his club’s match Saturday against the Seattle Sounders (10:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week) constituted a classic “six-pointer” from the soccer cliché bag.
“I think there’s still just three points on the line,” Watson said earlier this week. “But, yeah, you look at the table, they’re right above us, and they’re one of the teams we have to catch. So it’s a big game. I don’t think you need to look too far to see the importance of it.”
The Quakes have to pass at least three of the seven teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, so even if one doesn’t buy the idea of a six-point swing, there is clearly an added bonus if San Jose can hang losses on some of their closest rivals.
“We have to make sure that we don’t fall too far behind the pack before we get our full squad together,” Watson said. “The guys are aware of it. . . . It’s three points that we’re desperate for.”
In addition to Saturday, other key matchups for San Jose include a pair of games against Vancouver, who sit fourth in the West on a points-per-match basis. The Quakes also have two trips remaining to face the LA Galaxy, who are fifth at 1.58 ppm, and host seventh-place Colorado (1.35 ppm) on Oct. 9.
“Every game for us is important, with the position we’ve put ourselves in,” Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin said. “But especially [matches against] the teams above us, those are critical to get points out of. So, yeah, this weekend’s incredibly important for us.”
Last season, the Quakes were especially successful against their top Western rivals, going 8-0-1 in the regular season against the Sounders, Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. While the Galaxy remain the biggest enemy in the eyes of San Jose fans, the Quakes don’t have to wait for the California Clasico to find a little added motivation from the opposition.
In terms of this weekend, there’s also the fact that Seattle dealt San Jose a humbling 4-0 defeat in these teams’ most recent meeting, May 11 at CenturyLink Field.
“As a player, you always get excited for playing against the best teams in the Western Conference for the last few years,” Cronin said. “I think those games take on a life of their own. Adrenaline takes you through a lot of times, and that builds a little bit of a rivalry with a handful of teams in the West, and Seattle’s one of them.”