The schedule seems perfectly aligned for the Earthquakes to grab hold of their first playoff spot since returning to MLS in 2008. The combined winning percentage of San Jose’s remaining opponents is just .427, the lowest such mark of any of the league’s 16 clubs.
And that includes Wednesday night’s meeting with an expansion Philadelphia team with a 6-11-6 record overall and just two wins in 12 matches on the road this season.
So what does a coach like San Jose’s Frank Yallop do to guard against complacency when facing a team with few postseason hopes who had to fly through three time zones on a short week?
He pulls out a few pages from the Lou Holtz Coaching Manual. Specifically, the chapter covering “How To Talk Up An Opponent.”
[inline_node:313511]“We went to Philadelphia and got kind of outplayed,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com, referring to San Jose’s 2-1 victory in PPL Park on July 10, where the Quakes scored twice against the run of play.
“Our table, our league, it might look on paper that teams are easier to play against, but they’re not. Philadelphia are a good side. They’ve just been a little unlucky this year. It’s going to be a very difficult game.”
The Quakes have aimed all season to crack the 40-point barrier, which Yallop feels should guarantee a postseason berth. With eight matches remaining, San Jose are already at 33 points, and they’re in seventh in the postseason chase.
“It’s another home game and we’re looking to grab as many points as we can so we can secure even more of a playoff position,” Quakes right back Chris Leitch told MLSsoccer.com.
“It’s going to be a fight on Wednesday. Both teams played [last Saturday], so both teams are going to be a bit fatigued, but we’re playing at our place in front of our fans, so we’re hoping to maximize our points.”
Yallop has taken it easy on his charges in an attempt to conserve their legs, and is in the rare position – at least for the Quakes this season – of being able to start the same lineup for a second consecutive match. He may even be able to add talent, if midfielder Khari Stephenson has recovered enough from his sprained left ankle.
“There are going to be some tired bodies from [the FC Dallas] game and I want to make sure we are ready to go,” Yallop said. “So I’ll make sure that we are 100 percent committed to beating Philadelphia. If it’s fresh bodies, great. If it’s not, it’s guys with the mindset that we are going to try to come out and win that game.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes