Sometimes a game is more than just a game.
When the San Jose Earthquakes face the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium, it won't just be the visitors that will be fighting for their future.
For the Whitecaps, it is about keeping ahead of the hard-charging Portland Timbers for the fifth and final playoff position in the Western Conference. For the Quakes, it is about trying to break a 13-game winless streak and in no small way impress incoming head coach Dominic Kinnear that they deserve their place on his 2015 roster.
"The Vancouver game is a good one for us because we get to influence the playoffs," said team MVP Chris Wondolowski. "It's also our last game at Buck Shaw, so we want to end our stay here with a win."
The Earthquakes close a seven-year stay at their temporary digs along El Camino Real, while casting an eye to next season when they will open a brand-new 18,000 epicenter for soccer in San Jose just across the railroad tracks. Saying "Bye to the Buck" has been the story all week for the players, the front office, and the fans.
Maybe even more so for the coaching staff, as this week also marked the last game in charge for head coach Mark Watson and assistant coach Nick Dasovic, both relieved of their duties within a day of the Quakes 2-1 win over Honduras club C.D.S. Vida in an international friendly. Long-time assistant coach Ian Russell will lead the Earthquakes on an interim basis for the next two weeks until Kinnear takes over.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to coach these two games," said Russell. "I am really looking forward to the games and trying to get a couple wins."
Russell could have at his disposal the services of three players that were never available at the same time for Watson -- Wondolowski, fellow Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia, and playmaker Yannick Djalo. Whether it was injury or international duty, the three attacking Earthquakes have yet to play a single minute of the 2014 season together.
"Those three guys have never been on the field together at the same time," said Russell. "Perez Garcia is not at full match fitness, but he will probably play. Wondo is as fit as can be, and Djalo is getting better, so you'll see at least two of them on the field at the same time, for sure, and hopefully we'll get them all on there."
An offensive alignment that Earthquakes supporters have been clamoring for since mid-summer may finally become a reality. Still, for Wondolowski, it will all be for naught if the team doesn't recognize the gravity of the situation and come out ready to play against the Whitecaps.
"What we need to do is leave it all out there," said Wondolowski. "We have nothing to lose now and so we are going to go down swinging and hopefully connect on a couple."
Not just playing for pride, the Earthquakes are playing for their jobs, making the farewell to Buck Shaw match against the playoff chasing Whitecaps intriguing in more ways than one.