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Three things to watch for as San Jose Earthquakes take on Real Salt Lake

Can the Quakes keep their good vibes going?

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders FC Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The business end of the MLS is Back Tournament is here, as the San Jose Earthquakes will take on Real Salt Lake on Monday with a spot in the quarterfinal round on the line.

Matias Almeyda said RSL was “one of the worst teams” the Earthquakes could face in the Round of 16, so what are we looking for as the game approaches? Here’s three of them:

Settled in

Midfielder Jackson Yueill told reporters Saturday that the Earthquakes did not have to move hotels after the group stage, saving them one housekeeping matter as they got a week to prepare for the RSL game.

I don’t want to overstate it, because camaraderie alone is no guarantee of success, but the Earthquakes genuinely seem to be having fun and staying loose in the bubble. Yueill and his teammates talk about having fun together, and the team ethic appears to be the real deal. When times get tough, like in an elimination game, having that amity could help them push on to get a result.

Bench help

In the last two games, Almeyda’s substitutes have been extremely effective, particularly on the attacking end. With some managers seemingly skeptical of using their substitutes to actually try to change games at this tournament, the Argentine’s boldness has paid off.

If San Jose are chasing a game, he can bring on the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Danny Hoesen and Carlos Fierro, who have all linked up on goals off the bench so far. If the game is close, even with the Quakes leading by a goal, Almeyda won’t be afraid to bring on attackers. For RSL, they won’t be able to rest if the game gets to the 60th minute. Just because they have options, that doesn’t guarantee the bench will come through, but it’s a nice card to have in Almeyda’s hand, that’s for sure.

No mistakes

In the group stage, you can make a mistake or two and not be ultimately punished over it. But in the knockout round, a single mistake could prove the difference before continuing on and going home.

On the bright side, the Quakes have been excellent in two games and basically not coughed up any terrible mistakes, while the mistakes they made against the Vancouver Whitecaps turned out not to be terminal. Still, you can’t necessarily count on a three-goal rally in 25 minutes on the regular, least of all in a knockout game. If they play sound, smart soccer like they did in the group-stage finale against the Fire, San Jose are likely a good shout to book their ticket to the quarterfinals.

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