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Can the San Jose Earthquakes surge towards the playoffs?

Sep 9, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT

Chris Wondolowski;  Marvin Chavez;  Steven Lenhart; Victor Bernardez

After a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, the San Jose Earthquakes are showing the grit and nerve needed to mount a late push for the playoffs.

But can the reigning Supporters’ Shield champions sneak into the postseason?

In the past few weeks the ‘Quakes are looking increasingly solid and have been able to collect plenty of points to give themselves a chance of making the dance. They are currently 5 points off the playoffs, with six points separating third placed LA with San Jose in eighth. After taking the league by storm last season with an attack heavy approach lead by Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, the Earthquakes are in real danger of missing out on a chance to compete for MLS Cup 2013.

(MORE: MLS Week in Review, Round 28)

An MLS Cup has alluded San Jose since 2003 but let’s not get too carried away, making the playoffs would be a major achievement this season after early struggles and losing long-term head coach Frank Yallop at the midway point. Remarkably, since their opening day home defeat to Real Salt Lake, interim boss Mark Watson’s San Jose are unbeaten in 13 league games at home and have won their last six.

It is that home form that could see them reach the playoffs as the cluster of teams on the bubble all continue to beat each other and complicate the equation further. Poor away form could be the ‘Quakes’ downfall after an incredibly poor season away from Buck Shaw Stadium. But that would take a whole other article to dissect, so we’ll leave it at that.

San Jose have six games left and three of those are in the comfortable confides of home against Vancouver, Colorado and FC Dallas. And they will only leave the state of California once between now and the end of the season, with a trip to Real Salt Lake on September 21. The strength of San Jose’s schedule should leave their fate in their own hands, with five of their six games coming against teams in the playoff hunt in the West.

And one positive for the Earthquakes heading into the final stretch is that their defensive solidity has been impressive in recent home wins. They’ve conceded just once in their last five home games, after 1-0 wins against Philadelphia, Sporting KC and Seattle a 2-0 win against Chivas USA and a 2-1 win over Portland.

But scoring goals has been an issue this season for San Jose, as they’re the fourth lowest scorers in MLS with just 29 goals scored so far. However that doesn’t really matter because if they keep grinding out shutouts as a settled backline leads the way. The likes of Jon Busch in goal, defenders Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Jordan Stewart, Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez gives San Jose one of the strongest defensive units in MLS.

Four wins and a draw from their final six games should seem them squeak into the final playoff spot. Can San Jose’s stingy defense, rather than a swashbuckling offense, lead them into the postseason this season?

  1. talgrath - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Short answer, no. Long answer, while mathematically possible, a lot of things have to go right for San Jose to get into the playoffs. First, San Jose is down 0-2 games in hand against everyone in the west. As it stands, their best chance is to catch either the Timbers (who hold a game in hand against them) or Colorado (even); they need 5 points to catch either team. Their best bet to catch up is the Rapids, unlike the Timbers, the Rapids don’t have a game in hand and look decidedly more wobbly than the Timbers do and a rough schedule to boot; but if the Rapids keep their current pace of PPG of 1.5, they would be out of reach even if San Jose win out the season. San Jose also has half of their remaining games against teams currently qualified for the playoffs right now and two of those are top three teams (RSL and LA Galaxy), Colorado has 1 fewer game against a playoff contender left in the season and only one against a top 3 contender (Seattle). In summary, I don’t think San Jose is making the playoffs this year, if they want to have any chance though they must walk away with a win next month in their game against Colorado, a six pointer western conference edge of the playoffs show down.

  2. markburst - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    What I have the hardest time grasping and understanding is how does Mark Watson select his starting 11? Walter Martinez, our #10, has a great couple of games about a month ago setting up victories with game winning assists and goals, but we have not seen him in a game in weeks? Salinas, although he still dribbles to much :), looked like the Quakes only offensive catalyst for a while, then he too disappears from the starting lineup until the last game… If the Quakes miss the playoffs, I would blame Watson for poor talent management. You can’t even blame Lou Wolfe, who is a notorious cheapskate owner, because the team is actually in the the top half of the league in terms of player salaries… You can point a finger at the GM simply because of the distribution of the players salaries… look at how much $$ is sitting on the bench. There are guys making 3 times what Muma makes that don’t even play like Ballouchy and J. Hernandez.

  3. mrstev - Sep 9, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    uuhh..Salinas has been out injured (hammy) for the past several weeks. When he’s healthy, he starts.
    I think Martinez has just been too inconsistent. But I agree, he did make the difference a couple of times.

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