SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In one sense, being all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs has made Mark Watson’s job that much easier.
With little reason to save players for the MLS regular-season finale next weekend, the San Jose Earthquakes’ interim coach can run his first-team Xl out Wednesday night against Heredia in the group-stage finale to the CONCACAF Champions League (10 pm ET, FOX Sports 2).
“Everyone’s up for selection right now,” Watson confirmed to reporters Tuesday, as the team tried to recover from a scoreless tie Sunday against the LA Galaxy that all but knocked the Quakes out of the MLS playoff chase. San Jose can still qualify for the postseason, but only if, among other things, they beat FC Dallas while scoring a minimum of 13 goals – seven more than the current franchise record.
“I think it maybe would have been maybe a little different scenario if we’d gotten the result Sunday and had a big game [upcoming on] Saturday,” Watson said. “You’d have to think a little more about how you manage three games in seven days. But our focus is 100 percent on tomorrow night and we will ... put [out] the most competitive team possible we can.”
That means players such as goalkeeper Jon Busch – who didn’t see action in any of the Quakes’ first three CCL matches – might be on the field Wednesday. San Jose need to win to secure advancement from Group 5 and head into the knockout rounds next year.
“It can be a little bit more of a positive spin on our season,” Watson said. “We’ll actually get something out of it, and it’ll help with the disappointment of Sunday night. We’re going all out to win the game tomorrow night.”
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The Quakes’ biggest task is to put aside their disappointment at not having gotten a result from their trip to LA. San Jose's performance “deserved a little bit better,” as Watson put it Sunday, but they were denied repeatedly by strong work from Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
“It’s nice that we have this game Wednesday, where we can jump right back in there,” Quakes center back Clarence Goodson said. “This is a must-win game for us as well, so there hasn’t been any time to really switch off. As disappointing as that was on Sunday, we have to file that away and move on. It’s nice to know that we still have something to play for.”