San Jose calling Chivas USA tilt "must-win" game
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes have, to this point, taken solace in the fact they've often outplayed their opponents, even if that isn't reflected in the standings.
On Saturday, the Quakes host MLS’ only winless side in Chivas USA (4 pm ET; TeleFutura), and they're seeking the full three points, regardless of the game's aesthetic quality.
That urgency was made clear in the wake of last weekend’s 3-0 drubbing at New York, when Quakes coach Frank Yallop said his club has “got to win” against the 0-2-3 Goats. Heading into Saturday, the Quakes lie seventh in the Western Conference and 14th overall with five points on a 1-2-2 record. Coming up after Chivas USA is a trip to Philadelphia to face a strong 3-1-1 Union side.
So if the Quakes are going to avoid extending their winless streak beyond three matches, Saturday night would be their best chance before the calendar turns to May.
“I don’t think we should put too much pressure on ourselves, because we have been doing well – the results haven’t necessarily been going our way,” Quakes midfielder Khari Stephenson told MLSsoccer.com.
“But at the end of the day, it’s points that keep you up the table. So regardless of how well we’re playing, we need to get some points.”
Quakes coach Frank Yallop vented at his players Tuesday about their poor performance in New York, and he is pleased with his team’s response.
“They haven’t quit, they’ve worked hard this week,” Yallop said. “We worked really hard Tuesday, we pushed them. The reserves played great Tuesday night. [Many of] our first-team guys were at the game, which shows a unity in the squad that I think was fantastic. I’m not sure you see that in every club, which was really nice to see.”
All the rounds of “Kumbaya” won’t change the Quakes’ position in the table, but Yallop is hardly one to publicly panic — even though he likely will trot out a lineup with multiple changes from the group that opened in Red Bull Arena.
“[Our] spirits are high,” Yallop said. “We’ve played poorly in one game this year. In the other games, we’ve played well enough to win, but we haven’t. So we can’t get down on ourselves. We’ve just got to keep battling away, and we’ll get our wins when they come along.”
Last season, San Jose made their first MLS Cup Playoffs appearance in three seasons since being reborn as an expansion club by getting off to a 5-2-1 start. It may be impossible to match that, but the 1-7-2 start of 2009 is still within reach.
Hence the heightened importance of Saturday’s match.
“In a way, it is a must-win game,” Stephenson said. “You don’t want to fall too far behind and have to play catchup at the end of the season.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes