FEATURE: California Clasico win breathes new life into postseason goal for San Jose

The San Jose Earthquakes haven’t always looked their best in 2017, but continue to remain staunchly entrenched in the playoff race out West. And while the team’s less-than-stellar form on the road has held the side back from surging up the standings, Sunday afternoon’s 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy has given new life to the team’s postseason aspirations.

 
“I think it was just the grit that we had and the unwillingness to step back or lay off,” said head coach Chris Leitch following the victory. “I think that we wanted it. I think we wanted to outwork them and out battle them. It was a really good effort and I could tell this team wanted to dig in a fight tonight, which is what you need to do on the road.”
 
With the win, San Jose jumped above FC Dallas in the standings and currently holds the sixth and final playoff spot due to the wins tiebreaker. Of course, Dallas has played two fewer games, but as Major League Soccer has proven so many times, games in hand mean nothing until points are earned. Dallas is also among the coldest teams in MLS, earning just two points from their last six games (0-4-2), and will make up one of the games next weekend vs. NYRB.
 
At this point, there are eight teams fighting for six postseason spots. Let’s take a look at a few positives for the Earthquakes where they stand right now:
 
  1. HEALTH: The team should finally be returning to (near) full health and availability. Nick Lima and Florian Jungwirth – two staples on the team’s backline – have each missed the last two matches. Throw Francois Affolter into that list after he missed the LA match with a hamstring injury, and Anibal Godoy who served a one-game suspension stemming from a red card, and Leitch suddenly has numerous options available to him.
     
  2. HOME: Very clearly, the team’s next match – on the road against a red-hot Toronto FC (6-0-3 in last nine) – presents a major, albeit not impossible, challenge. However, looking beyond that match, four of the team’s final six games are at the friendly confines of Avaya Stadium, where the team is 4-0-1 in their last five.
     
  3. OPPORTUNITY: The Quakes still have three games against teams above them in the standings – vs. HOU on Sept. 16, vs. POR on Sept. 30 and at VAN on Oct. 15. These represent huge opportunities to potentially leapfrog Western Conference foes.
     
  4. FINALE: There’s a long way to go until the season finale, and no doubt the club would like to have a playoff spot locked up well before then, but San Jose has to like their Decision Day draw. In fact, the Earthquakes haven’t hosted their final match of a season since 2013 and to get Minnesota, with a 1-8-2 record away from home, could be a good chance to get three points.
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