Frank Yallop is usually the one facing cutting questions from the media members, not vice-versa.
Nevertheless, it’s been the Earthquakes coach who has had a request for reporters of late: Stop bugging me about San Jose’s chances of making the postseason.
“We just want to make the playoffs, then we can start talking about the playoffs,” Yallop said after San Jose forced a scoreless tie against the Crew in Columbus on Saturday. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”
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The Quakes can’t get too much further ahead without actually clinching their first playoff berth since being reborn in 2008. Sitting eighth in the MLS overall standings, San Jose hold a seven-point advantage on ninth-place Kansas City. A win for the Quakes on Saturday against D.C. United would put them clear of No. 10 Toronto and No. 11 Chicago; if San Jose triumph and the Wizards lose their match against Seattle, the Quakes are guaranteed a spot in the MLS Cup chase.
[inline_node:316600]Not that Yallop is letting that puncture his pessimistic exterior.
“We’re still really nervous because Kansas City can still win some games,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “I guess it makes it a little more comfortable knowing it’s seven points [clear] with four games left, but I’m still nervous as hell. I wish it were nine points with three games left.”
Despite Yallop’s attempt to freeze out any playoff talk – the coach studiously avoids bringing up the subject with his players – the Quakes know how close they are and that one win would all but sew up a spot, even if Kansas City do put up a result against visiting Seattle.
“We honestly feel that we’re one win away,” said Quakes forward Ryan Johnson, who will miss the trip to D.C. to join Jamaica’s national team this weekend. “That’s something that we’re very excited about. It doesn’t matter if it’s home or away, we can get the job done. We’re looking forward to going into DC and, hopefully, we can get three points.”
It would behoove the Quakes to wrap things up on their first attempt. With three matches in eight days leading up to the playoffs, and an end-of-the-season trip to Kansas City, San Jose don’t want to let the Wizards’ hopes of catching them linger.
"We don't really want it to come down to the last game," Yallop said.
Even if a win is not forthcoming – despite United’s sorrowful 21-point total through this point, they did just knock off Colorado 1-0 in the high altitude of Commerce City – the Quakes could still use a tie to help try to run out the clock on the Wizards.
“Every little bit helps. At this point, we don’t care if we get [make the playoffs] by 10 points or by one point,” Quakes center back Jason Hernandez said. “We’re keeping our heads down, trying to grind out results and get as many points as possible and to maybe catch somebody in front of us before the season’s out. That’s the mentality you have to have.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.