San Jose Earthquakes eye 1st playoff berth in 5 years after crucial draw

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Trailing 1-0 to a first-half Yordy Reyna goal, the clock was ticking on the San Jose Earthquakes playoff hopes on Sunday evening as they battled Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.

Sitting in eighth place in the West, the Quakes looked like they would be needing a lot of help on the final day of the season if they were to get above the red line. Then Chris Wondolowski found Valeri Qazaishvili with 13 minutes remaining and the Georgian midfielder fired home a massive equalizer for the visitors.

That was the end of the scoring and although they didn't know it at the time, that point, coupled with losses for FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake, springboarded San Jose back into the playoff places. In fact, they now hold their postseason fate in their own hands next Sunday.

"To be honest, we came in after this game, to a man, we were kind of disappointed with a tie," Wondolowski told reporters after the match. "Then we saw the other results, and we'll take it. We come in now and we just have to take care of our business. We win and we're in. So we know that and that's how we'll all look at it."

San Jose have struggled on the road all season, managing just three wins and 10 points from their previous 16 matches, but they saved one of their best away performances for when it mattered most, a fact which Quakes coach Chris Leitch feels "says a lot" about the character of his team.

"First and foremost, these guys knew what was on the line tonight," Leitch said. "They didn't run away from it. They ran right to it and took on the challenge head on. They really dug in. It was a good result. A good, hard fought result here in a tough place to play, against obviously the best team in the West as it stands now."

A Quakes win on Decision Day presented by AT&T, over expansion side Minnesota United FC, will see them in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

It would be a great achievement for Leitch and his squad, who weren't given much of a chance from many pundits of clinching one of the last postseason spots in the West. The pressure will be on, especially at home, but Leitch feels his squad will thrive on that.

"You've got to approach it the same way we have this game, the same way we did against Portland last game," Leitch said. "Running towards these games and understanding the magnitude of the situation and wanting that on our shoulders.

"That's what this group in this locker room wants. They want this challenge. They want this opportunity. They want to have it in their hands. These are the games these guys look forward to playing in."

The Earthquakes will certainly head into the match as favorites against a Minnesota side that have struggled on the road all season, but has been showing some signs of life of late, with just two defeats in their last six league matches.

"Some people [will] have expectations, but if you look at Minnesota's form the last two months, they've been excellent," Wondolowski said. "They've been looking really strong. Abu Danladi's been outstanding. We know it's going to be a tough task, but believe us, we're not going to take anything for granted right now."