After dropping their weekend game to the Houston Dynamo 2-1, the San Jose Earthquakes face a must-win game away to the Portland Timbers tonight. Yes, we said the Dynamo match was also a must-win, but this time we really, really mean it. The Quakes have 29 points with 6 games remaining — they’ll need to win 5 of those to get to 44 points, which is one off the projected number of 45 that pundits believe will get a team into the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs. Lose to the Timbers, and the Quakes go from "realistically" eliminated from the playoffs to "all-but-mathematically" eliminated from the playoffs.
Head coach Frank Yallop shared earlier this week at training that he felt his side did well enough in Houston to at least earn a draw. He also recognized that his team has their backs against the wall when it comes to staying in the postseason conversation. Portland is not an easy place to play — Jeld-Wen Field has become quite the venue for the Timbers — and Yallop made note of that fact when discussing his team’s chances tonight. However, he was quick to point out that the team has been to the Timbers home field twice already this season — in U.S. Open Cup qualifying and in the MLS Reserve League — so they are more than familiar with the atmosphere. Given that the Portland Timbers currently cling to a playoff position as the season draws to a close, that already rabid fanbase is sure to turn up the volume to eleven.
The Earthquakes will be without Jason Hernanez and Bobby Convey for tonight’s match, as both were held back in San Jose due to injury. Coach Yallop promised one change to the starting XI, as he looks to get defender Justin Morrow into the mix and wants to give right-side midfielder Joey Gjertsen a break. Erstwhile captain Ramiro Corrales will move into a central midfield role to make way for Morrow, while rookie Rafael Baca shifts over to the right to cover for Gjersten. Rookie forwards Matt Luzunaris and Maxwell Griffin look set to be the main offensive weapons available to coach Yallop off the bench.
Chris Wondolowski Khari Stephenson
Simon Dawkins Rafael Baca
Sam Cronin Ramiro Corrales
Justin Morrow Bobby Burling Nana Attakora Steven Beitashour
Will the minimal changes to the line-up help the Earthquakes return to their winning ways, or does this signal another likely addition to a streak that has seen the team fail to win in 14 of their last 15 games? Join in the conversation here at Quake, Rattle and Goal! during and after the game to discuss everything Earthquakes.