The San Jose Earthquakes sealed a much-needed win over Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake on Sunday night, winning 1-0 at Avaya Stadium to keep their playoff hopes alive with three games left to play.
The Quakes had to wait until the 87th minute to get the go-ahead goal as Matias Perez Garcia’s deflected shot rolled into the net, sending the home crowd into raptures after what had been a tight and physical contest.
San Jose fired 20 shots at Nick Rimando’s goal over the 90 minutes as they looked to seal the win from the outset. Rimando looked unbeatable for most of the game, making four important saves to keep RSL’s own playoff ambitions intact.
But Garcia’s effort from distance took a wicked deflection, leaving the RSL stopper helpless as his side look to be missing out on postseason football for the first time in eight years.
The Claret and Cobalt still have four games to play (one more than San Jose and Houston, who are both also battling for a top six finish) but Jeff Cassar’s side are six points behind Portland in the final playoff berth and need to basically win each of their last four games.
The same probably applies for San Jose, who despite being five points better off than RSL, have just three games left to try and make the postseason for the first time since 2012.
They have two home games in a row against Vancouver and Sporting KC to play next before a final day trip to FC Dallas. All three of those Western Conference opponents are currently in playoff places and San Jose will look to overtake at least one before the final ball of the regular season is struck.
Vancouver and Dallas look safe in the top six but Sporting Kansas City are just two points in front of San Jose so the game on October 16 should be a massive one.
SKC travel to Portland next in another massive game. A draw there would best suit the Earthquakes but it certainly looks as though the final couple of playoff spots in the West will go right down to the wire.
Will the San Jose Earthquakes make the playoffs this season?