After being officially eliminated from postseason contention on Tuesday following the New York Red Bulls victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy, the San Jose Earthquakes face three more matches on the schedule with little else to play for other than avoiding a dreaded fall to the bottom of the MLS table. With a victory tonight over the New England Revolution, the Quakes will finish the 2011 season no lower than second from bottom in the Western Conference and 16th place overall.
Earlier in the week, head coach Frank Yallop spoke about taking every game seriously as long as the team was mathematically still eligible to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. He spoke of putting out his best available starting XI and doing everything he could to ensure that he was being fair to his team and the rest of the league. Now, with nothing to look forward to other than next season, Yallop softened on his stance and revealed that he’ll look to the last three games on the schedule as an opportunity to get a few guys more playing time.
Tonight at Gillette Stadium, the Earthquakes line-up will most likely look very similar to that which faced Sporting Kansas City last weekend, but with some small changes. Potentially, on-loan forward Maxwell Griffin will get a longer look on the field, as he to this point has only been employed as a late-game substitute. Fellow forward Ellis McLoughlin is also a candidate to earn more minutes, as the rookie has slipped off the radar following a nice run of games in the spring that included his first and only MLS goal, coincidently scored against the Revolution on May 21 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Goalkeeper David Bingham is another player that deserves a start or two over the last few weeks of the 2011 season. While Busch has been spectacular this year — and is arguably the team’s MVP — Bingham is expected to captain the Earthquakes at some point, and needs to face some real-time MLS opponents.
The match tonight kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PDT and can be viewed on Comcast Sports Net California or heard on KDOW radio.
Looking around the web, the match tonight still holds some storylines despite both teams being eliminated from postseason consideration.
As detailed over at Quake, Rattle and Goal, the ignominious award known as the Wooden Spoon is still undetermined this late in the season, so winning tonight and creating some separation from spoon-favorite Vancouver Whitecaps is imperative.
A steadying force for the Earthquakes over the past couple months — heck, the whole season — has been MLS Original Ramiro Corrales. The team captain credits a restful offseason and new exercise regiment for allowing him to keep playing at a high level.
With an outside chance to defend his MLS Golden Boot award, Chris Wondolowski will look to shoot early and shoot often in the Quakes remaining three matches. In addition, any goals he can tack on this season will help his career total grow, and get him a few steps closer to approaching the franchise leader in goals scored, Ronald Cerritos.
Be sure to check in at Center Line Soccer after tonight’s game for a full match recap. The match might be meaningless in the MLS Cup playoff chase, but not for the great supporters of the San Jose Earthquakes.