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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There will be new faces and old hands for San Jose Earthquakes coach Mark Watson to choose from Saturday against Chivas USA. Even better, the Quakes’ bench should feature something that has been rarely spotted there in 2013:
With a 2-1 victory against Portland last weekend, San Jose authored their first winning streak of the year. And the sight of Chivas USA -- the only club sitting below them in the Western Conference standings -- on the upcoming schedule means San Jose might make a prophet out of newcomer Jordan Stewart, who talked up the idea of crafting a postseason run upon joining the club earlier this month.
“In soccer, when you’ve got the momentum, then you can win three or four games, that puts you right back up there,” Stewart said. “If we can try to emulate what they did last season and try to push towards the playoffs, that’s a bonus.”
San Jose will welcome back star forward Chris Wondolowski, although it’s not clear how much rest the club’s lone Designated Player might need after featuring on the U.S.’ Gold Cup-winning squad, then heading directly to the MLS All-Star Game. The Quakes are also expected to add defender Clarence Goodson -- signed just before he went on Gold Cup duty -- and Salvadoran winger Jaime Alas in training this week.
On the other hand, San Jose will be missing suspended forward Alan Gordon and winger Marvin Chavez. And the Quakes still face a daunting task to get back in playoff position, sitting on in eighth place on 27 points with a match in hand on only one other club (Colorado).
Yet the feeling in San Jose’s dressing room is that there is still time to put together what would essentially be a Goonies-like storyline writ large.
“We’re on the rise right now,” defender Victor Bernardez said through a team translator after converting a penalty kick to spark the Quakes’ first-ever MLS victory against Portland. “We had a bad start to the season, obviously. Now we’re playing better. We feel confident. We look at this like the comeback in the second half -- we came back in games, now we’ve got to come back in the season and finish the season strong.”
One item is in the Quakes’ favor: Of their dozen league matches left, eight are against clubs sitting above them in the West -- meaning each potential victory in those situations would have increased impact as San Jose tries to chase down at least three of those teams.
“It’s nice, and we’re going to feed off of it, for sure,” Quakes forward Adam Jahn said. “We’ve just got to keep going. I think we’re going to surprise some people. There’s 12 games left. We can make a run, and I’m very confident that we will.”