Quest for Three: LA Galaxy take on an improved San Jose Earthquakes side with playoffs on the line

LA Galaxy can clinch playoff berth this weekend with a victory over San Jose

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Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora/LA Galaxy

As the LA Galaxy continue their Quest for Three, each week, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will discuss the upcoming match and its playoff implications. This week, he looks at the Galaxy’s opponent for the regular season home finale, the improved San Jose Earthquakes

CARSON, Calif. – The postseason math is simple for the LA Galaxy.

A win or a draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday or a Vancouver Whitecaps FC win over the Colorado Rapids a day earlier will clinch a record 15th postseason appearance for the Galaxy. However, a Rapids win combined with an LA loss to the surging Earthquakes will mean that LA’s postseason destiny would be decided on the final weekend of the season when they travel to CenturyLink Field to take on a suddenly slumping Seattle Sounders FC side.

Despite Seattle’s current struggles, the Galaxy will look to take care of matters themselves at home on Sunday by getting the point needed to seal a postseason berth or even the full three points that would also help LA solidify a top three spot in the Western Conference where first and sixth is separated by just six points.

“It shows you how close it is, we’re two points from the top and we’re not even qualified for the playoffs yet,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who served as LA’s captain during their 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday. “It’s a dogfight and there are a lot of good teams jockeying for playoff spots and positions too.”

Whereas a point on Sunday gives the Galaxy a postseason berth, San Jose are looking to simply keep their postseason dreams alive. Currently sitting in sixth place in the West with 47 points, San Jose are one point behind Colorado and two ahead of Vancouver going into the final weeks of the year. Adding another wrinkle to the drama surrounding the Earthquakes is that Colorado and Vancouver face one another twice to close out the year. 

Moribund at the start of the year, San Jose has risen up the table with a 10-5-2 record since interim head coach Mark Watson took over for Frank Yallop in early June. Since Watson took the helm, the Quakes have taken a total of 32 points, one more than the Galaxy, who have gone 9-5-4 in that time for 31 points. Only the Chicago Fire (34 points) have earned more points than the Earthquakes since Watson’s appointment.

The former Canadian international has turned around the Earthquakes with a more defensive style that is far different than the smash-and-grab nature of the team that ran away with the MLS Supporters’ Shield just a season ago. Add in a healthy Chris Wondolowski, who has scored the game-winning goal in each of his last two games, and you have the ingredients for a winning team.

The resurgence of Wondolowski isn’t the only worry for the Galaxy as San Jose has become a talented counter-attacking side with the emergence of fleet-footed midfielder Shea Salinas, who has scored one goal and two assists during the Quakes’ recent fiv- game unbeaten streak.  With the Earthquakes dropping back deeper on defense, the speed of Salinas and fellow winger Cordell Cato have been integral to Watson’s new system. 

 “The San Jose game is massive,” asserted Dunivant, who will likely be tasked with stifling one of his former club’s dangerous wingers.

Despite the obvious threat provided by a San Jose team that had not lost a regular season game to the Galaxy since 2011 until a 3-0 LA win on August 31, LA are confident that they can get the points necessary not only to qualify for the postseason, but also avoid the Knockout Round by securing a top three seed in the conference.

“We’ve got a big game against San Jose where hopefully we can get three points and we got Seattle away,” said captain Robbie Keane. “They’re certainly two tough games, but they’re certainly games with everybody available that we’re fully capable of winning.”

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com