There are all kinds of practical reasons for San Jose’s match on Saturday to be considered of extreme importance.
The Quakes need only eight more points to reach the 40-point plateau, a figure they have felt all season will earn them their first playoff berth since being re-established in 2008.
It should also be the first home start for the team’s first Designated Player, Geovanni, who is coming off an assist and a game-winning goal last weekend. And it’s all taking place against the hottest team in the league, FC Dallas, who come into Buck Shaw Stadium riding a 13-match unbeaten streak.
WATCH: Geovanni scores first in MLS
Yet there’s a more visceral reason for San Jose to get motivated: rewriting an ugly blotch of history.
When Dallas whipped the Quakes in Pizza Hut Park on a steamy June 5 afternoon, it was more for the Quakes than merely a case of dropping their last match heading into the World Cup break. San Jose came out and wilted from the first whistle. Take your pick of adjective: desultory, uninterested, incoherent.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: FCD 2, SJ 0
Brek Shea’s two-goals-in-three-minutes burst took care of the outcome, but the Quakes knew better than to believe the final score line.
“I think [losing] 2-0 was even a little flattering for us,” Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com. “No one played well that game.”
The contest featured the final appearance of central midfielder Andre Luiz, who came off after 23 minutes and wound up having season-ending knee surgery soon thereafter. Rookie Justin Morrow came on and was so ineffective he was pulled 40 minutes later, never to be seen again in a Quakes uniform. He was loaned out to USSF D-2 side Tampa Bay earlier this week.
“We like to consider ourselves a tough team to play against on the road, and that match, for whatever reason, from the opening whistle we came out flat,” Quakes center back Bobby Burling told MLSsoccer.com.
“No excuses. We didn’t bring anything to the table that game. We made it too easy on them. They had the majority of possession, did what they wanted and we really didn’t have a chance to begin with.”
[inline_node:317064]Since that game, the Quakes have added Khari Stephenson to replace Andre Luiz and Geovanni to provide the missing link in terms of playmaking ability.
“It’s not a totally different team, but the style of play that we play is totally different,” Quakes center back Brandon McDonald told MLSsoccer.com. “When we were in Dallas, we had more defensive-minded players in.
"Now we’ve got guys like Khari and Geovanni, guys that we can put into the attacking mid role. That’s what I thought we were missing.”
But the team as a whole has gotten improved as well. Just as the trip to Frisco was one of the low points of the season, the rematch comes with the Quakes at the other end of the spectrum, having won three of their last four matches – the first time since May that’s happened – and building significant momentum in search of that elusive playoff spot.
“You want to be playing your best soccer and peaking right now,” Burling said. “Dallas is on a great roll, and we’d like to consider ourselves still on the incline, going up. Hopefully our best stuff is still ahead of us.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes