Buck Shaw Stadium might not be big enough for commissioner Don Garber to consider hosting the MLS Cup there, but the San Jose Earthquakes hope their home-field magic is good enough to put them in the Dec. 1 final.
The Quakes are famously unbeaten in their last 18 MLS matches in the quaint confines of 10,525-seat Buck Shaw, an 11-0-7 run that dates back to Aug. 13, 2011. San Jose have outscored their opponents 46-21 during that stretch.
Another such performance tonight against the LA Galaxy in the second leg of the clubs’ Western Conference semifinal would put the Quakes one step closer to a title game -- a match San Jose would automatically host as holders of the league’s best regular-season record at 19-6-9.
Down 1-0 after Sunday’s first leg, the Galaxy will have to break San Jose’s streak to avoid relinquishing their postseason crown.
“[We have] a lot of confidence,” Quakes forward Steven Lenhart said of the stadium, which opened in 1962. “It’s fun to play here, the fans are really supportive, and I think we have something really good going here. I think that the preparation for us is key. I don’t think it’s just by chance that we’re showing up and winning. We’ve put in the work to protect our home and put on a good show for our fans. So I expect the same [Wednesday].”
Despite the plus-25 goal differential in their last 18 Buck Shaw matches, Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch is doing his best to keep his teammates from buying too deeply into the notion that it assures advancement to face either Seattle or Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference finals.
“There’s definitely some confidence that comes with that, but we also know in the next breath that LA is a very dangerous team,” Busch said. “They have so many weapons. And this is a one-game-only thing. It does not matter what happened here in the past, it only matters what happens [Wednesday] night. You take confidence in that we’ve played well here, but again, it’s a little different scenario because it’s winner-take-all.”
The Quakes also remember that home-field advantage isn’t the end-all, be-all. The New York Red Bulls were 10-3-2 at home in 2010, owners of the top seed in the Eastern Conference when San Jose shocked them 3-1 at Red Bull Arena to pull off a 3-2 series win on aggregate in a first-round playoff series that year.
“In between the lines anything can happen, and we’re proof of that, going into New York and getting a result that most people probably didn’t predict us getting,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “We’re just going to come out here and it’s 0-0 at the start of the whistle and try to have a good performance.”