The recipe for making the MLS postseason: Win at home and draw on the road. Simple, right?
The San Jose Earthquakes have followed that recipe, almost to a tee, this season, and they sit in sixth place in the Western Conference as a result. Only one of the six play-off eligible teams in the West -- the Vancouver Whitecaps -- have dropped a home contest all season.
Six games played at Avaya Stadium, and the Quakes have collected 16 of a possible 18 points. Add in the 3 points from three road draws, and San Jose has as many points as the leaders of the East, the Philadelphia Union.
But with four starters missing on international duty for the Copa America Centenario tournament that kicks off at Levi's Stadium next Friday, the Quakes will face a stern test in FC Dallas Saturday night as they seek another 3 points at home.
"You always want to keep a good standing at home," said midfielder Fatai Alashe. "We've been doing well so far this year, as well at times last year. It has a lot to do with the fans and the atmosphere, the environment that they create. We want to continue our good play at home and get those three points."
Alashe scored the tying goal last weekend as the Quakes rescued a point at the LA Galaxy. With his midfield partner Anibal Godoy with the Panamanian national team, Alashe will be the boss in the center of the formation for San Jose against Dallas. But will he and the Earthquakes have enough to topple an FC Dallas team that has the second best record in MLS?
"It would be nice," said head coach Dominic Kinnear. "It is part of the plan. I know Dallas will want to have something to say about it too, and they have a good team. For us, playing at home has been good this season."
The absence of Wondolowski, who has 7 goals for San Jose so far this season, will be made up in part by the return of target forward Quincy Amarikwa to the starting line-up for the first time since a hamstring injury forced him out of the Quakes 1-0 victory against Sporting Kansas City back on April 24. Amarikwa, who scored a wonder-goal against the Portland Timbers earlier this season at Avaya Stadium, is ready for the challenge FC Dallas presents.
"You feel the responsibility to earn three points in every game," said Amarikwa. "Having said that, you know you have an advantage playing at home, so you don't want to squander opportunities. Our mentality is to keep the course we are on and get the result, but also to build the momentum we will need to get a result in Portland next week."
The Earthquakes have a quick turnaround from Saturday's game as they head to Portland to face the Timbers on Wednesday night ahead of a two week break in MLS action precipitated by the Copa America tournament. The Earthquakes will play Portland on the road later in June as part of the U.S. Open Cup tournament as well.