Saturday night’s meeting with Sporting Kansas City is, realistically, the last opportunity for the San Jose Earthquakes to salvage their dwindling playoff hopes. Does their lethargic offense have anything left in the tank to spark a last-gasp revival?
The San Jose Earthquakes will look back and wonder where the last two months went. The Quakes have reached their lowest ebb of the season, slumping to ninth place in the Western Conference with just two victories in their last seventeen league outings. The wheels ground to a halt over the course of the summer, as the club squandered countless opportunities to drag themselves back into a playoff position.
Now they find themselves in need of resuscitation heading into a must-win game versus Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. Defeat to their playoff rivals would see them fall to a full nine points below the red line, all but signaling the end of their season. Their margin for error is non-existent.
Although the Quakes have the second best defense in the league, their attacking force has sputtered its way through recent games without picking up any steam. They’ve scored fewer goals than any other team in Major League Soccer, averaging less than a single goal per game.
They’ll need a spark up top against SKC to be able to turn the ship around. In recent games, Kinnear has strayed from his favored 4-4-2 to start Chris Wondolowski alone up front with Simon Dawkins functioning underneath the striker. They’ve shown promising signs of fluid, attacking play and have dominated big portions of their last two games against the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders, but were unable to capitalize on their chances and retain their focus for ninety minutes.
“We need to maintain what we’re doing and put the ball in the back of the net. We’re due a few goals,” Quakes forward Quincy Amarikwa told their official website.
Meanwhile, Designated Player signing Henok Goitom has sat the bench for the last two matches since joining from Sweden in mid-August, prompting speculation regarding his fitness. However, he has been training with the team and there are no obvious signs that he his carrying an injury.
Kinnear might need to reshuffle the cards again given the questionable status of Anibal Godoy and Darwin Ceren, who are both recuperating from muscle strains, which would leave Fatai Alashe alone in the middle of the park. This could create room for Dawkins to drop deeper into the middle and for Goitom or Amarikwa to start up front or Shea Salinas out wide.
Kansas City are winless in five games, but their dangerous offensive force will be a cause for concern for the Quakes. They’ve netted five times in their last two games, drawing 2-2 against the LA Galaxy and 3-3 with the Houston Dynamo, and Dom Dwyer has featured on the scoresheet in both games. They’re still anxiously awaiting the return of US Men’s National Team midfielder Graham Zusi, whose status remains questionable.
No team has qualified for the Western Conference playoffs with fewer than eleven victories since 2009, leaving the Quakes, who are on seven victories, with much ground to cover. Last season, Kinnear’s men won thirteen times and still fell just short of the playoffs.
One victory won’t suffice to turn the ship around for the Quakes; a berth in the playoffs would require a sustained push from the team’s last six games and an immediate uptick in form. If they can’t even get the playoff push off the ground against SKC then the paths to success become very narrow indeed.