San Jose head north into Canada and seek their fourth straight league win in a match that is vital to their lingering play-off hopes. There they will meet a Vancouver side seeking to avoid their fourth straight game without a MLS victory.
Notwithstanding an abject loss in the CONCACAF Cup in Montreal from an understrength side, the Bay Area club has scooped nine points from their last three games to reintroduce them to the coat tails of the play-off race.
They visit a Vancouver side that has lost some of its surefootedness in recent weeks. The recovery of a point from 1-0 down in Portland was hopefully a sign that the fighting spirit is alive and well.
The excellent news for the Whitecaps is the possible return of centre half Andy O’Brien.
The Irish international Yorkshireman has been missing since hurting his groin on June 10th in Seattle. Jonny Leveron and Brad Rusin have done a fantastic job but the side sorely lacks the leadership the veteran provides.
He signed a new contract last week which strongly suggests the Caps are satisfied with his recovery and expect his form to remain unaffected.
He discussed whether he could go 90 minutes against the Quakes with Martin McMahon on MLSSoccer.com:
“That’s the manager’s decision. All I can do is try and work as hard as possible to make sure that if I am selected I can give as good an account of myself as possible.
I’m not naive enough to think that I’ll probably be 100 percent, but I dare say I’ve not been 100 percent in a few years. I think most players play with a few niggles, but I wouldn’t describe this as a niggle.”
Brad Rusin sustained an injury in Portland but played defensive midfield there so Jonny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell stand ready to reprise their pairing from Oregon.
“I think his concentration is improving,” Rennie said of Mitchell earlier this week in training.
“I think he’s a good player, he’s aggressive in the air, but I think now he’s managing to stay more focused throughout the game. He’s not as rash, perhaps, as he was at first.”
Defence is no longer at the top of Quakes Interim Coach Mark Watson’s concerns.
During their winning streak, San Jose have posted two of their three shutouts on the season. Much of that is surely down to a series of new arrivals. English left back Jordan Stewart was a huge part of the win over Portland on his debut.
US International defender Clarence Goodson also had an impressive debut against Chivas last weekend. Victor Bernardez remains one of the best defenders in the league.
San Jose lie just three points behind Vancouver who occupy the final play-off slot. They have played a match more than the Caps and a victory here is probably more essential to them than their hosts.
That said, one point from the last nine available has seriously dented Vancouver’s charge and 5th place, equal with Los Angeles on Points per Game, will not be good enough for the post season, assuming the Galaxy will at some point start trying their hardest.
Dallas and Seattle are breathing down their necks although one is fading while the other has games in hand.
This puts some pressure on the Caps who have Colorado, LA, Chivas and then Dallas in their schedule before facing San Jose again.
It’s not quite a must-win for then Caps as clearly Colorado are the team they must vault and they have three games, including the final two of the regular season, against the Denver side.
A win however would leave the Quakes with a great deal to do. With Dallas also fading, it could start to look like five teams from six very soon. That would do nicely with three shots at the Rapids to come.
For San Jose, Vancouver sit right in the epicenter of the ring of teams to beat.