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Monday Kickback: Week 28

The tough road to the end of the 2019 season starts Wednesday in Utah

MLS: Orlando City SC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes are 4th in the West but may not make the playoffs, the US Men’s National Team suffers an embarrassing defeat to their rivals and RSL is really good at home this week on The Monday Kickback.

International Break

There were only five MLS matches last week as most teams were on an international break. The United States and Mexico played the 70th edition of their bitter rivalry with Mexico easily beating Gregg Berhalter’s strategy. Losing to a rival when the United States has players young players like Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Sergiño Dest has a lot of American fans struggling to understand what the future of this team looks like in the future.

Berhalter maintains that the system is coming along well and he feels that the team is playing better than they did at the Gold Cup. Naturally, people on the internet are skeptical, but as someone that follows the San Jose Earthquakes, I know firsthand how a plan can be coming together behind the scenes. Things are only going to get more challenging on Tuesday. When the United States takes on Uruguay in St. Louis as Berhalter lost six players that have been sent back to their respective clubs. A good thing about the smaller roster is that Quakes fans are more likely to see Nick Lima or Jackson Yueill get some minutes for the national team. While I am sure Yueill and Lima are proud to represent their country, Quakes fans are probably looking at the standings and remaining schedule and are wondering if one or both could also be released early.

Tough Schedule Coming Up

The Quakes are hanging onto 4th place in the West which would give them a home playoff game for the first time since 2012. A home playoff game would be a great reward not only to the players and coaching staff but for the fans who have shown up year after year to support their beloved team. The truth is thinking about a home playoff game right now is premature with the Western Conference playoff race so close. Out of the final six games left in the regular season, the Quakes are going to have to win a couple. And that is not going to be an easy task.

It starts on Wednesday when they take on the team right below them in the Western Conference table Real Salt Lake, and it only gets harder from there. As soon as they are done in Utah, they fly over to New York to take on Eastern Conference leader New York City FC.

The week after that they head down south to take on Josef Martinez and Atlanta United who currently sit third in the East. After that battle, they finally head home to face Philadelphia Union who is 2nd in the East.

The final two matches are against Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers; two fellow Western Conference teams are also battling for a playoff spot. The magic number to aim for if you want a shot at the playoffs had been arbitrarily set at 50 points but the way the things have gone in the West this season it seems like one team that reaches that number will be left out. For the Quakes, it all starts on Wednesday in Utah.

Next up RSL

On paper, this looks like the Quakes easiest remaining match, but a little digging reveals just how difficult this match will be for San Jose. RSL is one of three teams, along with the Quakes and LAFC, to have at least ten home wins this season. They have only conceded 12 goals at home, which is third-best in MLS and have the added motivation of also being in a fight for their playoffs lives.

We have all seen the dry spells the Quakes can go through. Even though their shot output remains high some weeks, the Quakes can’t seem to find the right spot to get past the goalkeeper. They will have the added pressure of not being without their energetic manager Matias Almeyda who will miss his third consecutive, and final, match after being sent off in the Quakes loss to LAFC. Almeyda’s decision to bring on Danny Hoesen and Paul Marie in these two clubs first meeting on July 6 was critical to the Quakes ending the match with three points instead of a disappointing draw. If this turns into another chess match, it will be up to the players to put in great performances.