The San Jose Earthquakes don’t have much recent playoff experience, and they don’t have any so far in the Matias Almeyda era.
But they did have a dress rehearsal for the playoffs just this season, with the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stage.
Like the upcoming 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, with San Jose scheduled to face Sporting Kansas City in Kansas City on Sunday, the MLS is Back knockouts were a single-elimination format, and while there are several months and the added element of travel between the competitions, the Earthquakes — who won one knockout game in the summer, over Real Salt Lake, and lost one, against Minnesota United — have a a bit of experience under their belts in knockout competition this season, with this group.
“In the bubble, each game was kind of a win, or you’re kind of done, and then especially in the knockout rounds I think we got a good taste of that, especially against Salt Lake as a win or go on or win or go home [scenario]. And then our loss against Minnesota, I think we took a lot from how we approached both of those games, because I think our mentality was different and I think that’s why we ended up losing,” midfielder Jackson Yueill told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “So I think we’re going to go into this game with the knowledge of, okay we didn’t do everything we needed to in the game that we lost and this is a one and done or one and move on game, and it starts with with ourselves and how we approach the game and staying as closest to us as possible but respecting that the other team has a lot of qualities.
“But coming with the right passion and the right energy to believe in ourselves and that we can play against a good team like this and come out on top is our main focus,” he added.
Attacker Cristian Espinoza also said there was some benefit in having knockout game experience this year.
“I agree [that the knockout games] helps us, it serves as experience for the upcoming game,” Espinoza told reporters Thursday through an interpreter. “But there’s also the reality that it’s a different opponent on Sunday that we haven’t played [this season], and we need to get ourselves together and follow what Matias does, because if we fail to follow his lead, that’s where bad things can come back.”
Earthquakes home games have been marked by the drive-in section at the open end of Earthquakes Stadium, featuring spirited honking in both celebration and complaint. When asked if he had a message for the supporters, Yueill paid tribute to those who have stuck with the club this year.
“We’re so appreciative of them, and, and how much they’ve stuck with us,” Yueill said. “Yeah, I think it’s been a hard year for everyone and it’s been a hard year for us and for them and, of course, you know there’s a lot of ups and downs this year. But just their constant support and their unwavering faith in us to turn it around, it means so much to me and to everyone on the team and to the coaching staff and we’re really appreciative of them. We would love for them to drive their cars into the stadium there and honk as loud as they can because it puts such a big smile on our faces but we’re gonna do everything we can to keep the season going and to put on a good show for them.
“And even though we won’t be able to hear them there, we know that they’re watching and supporting us and that gives us a lot of energy to keep going forward and keep giving it our all.”
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