There are eleven matches left for the Quakes this season. Currently, in a playoff spot, this is the time of the season that everything builds up to.
These next eleven games bring different challenges to the Quakes, but one thing remains the same, the need to secure playoffs.
In the upcoming eleven games, Luchi’s men will face some of the league’s best and worst. Both sets of teams will challenge the Quakes in unique ways.
Fortunately, the team does have a nice start to their MLS return. In the opening five games, only two teams can be considered playoff hopefuls.
These will be must-wins, as points against lesser opponents feel more valuable at this stage.
The final stretch of games for the Quakes will be brutal. Nashville and Austin will both be trying to move up the table. Teams like Dallas and Minnesota may be just as pressed as the Quakes to keep a playoff spot.
It’d truly be a shame for this positive season to unravel down the stretch. MLS has somehow given them a golden chance to reach the destined land.
Following the Leagues Cup, MLS will restart in mid-August. Marking the start of the most pivotal moments of the season, Luchi will need his boys at full strength.
Only four points separate the spot just outside the playoff teams and the Quakes. There is no wiggle room left with teams like Dallas and Vancouver on their heels.
Interestingly, the first game back for San Jose will be Vancouver, and this will be the game of the season. Both sides are desperate for wins, but the Whitecaps did trade away key player Julian Gressel. With the Quakes back to full strength and Vancouver shaky, this feels like a good chance for them.
After that match, the Quakes will have more room to breathe. LA Galaxy is always a tough outing, but this is a truly weak LA side. Surely the players will be eyeing this game more than any, given that the Galaxy have had their number all year long.
D.C. United will be the easiest matchup that they have remaining. This is a team in complete freefall with so many off-the-field controversies. Anything less than three points should be seen as a total failure.
Towards the end of the season, Portland and Minnesota, once more, offer up some interesting situations. Portland has always been the Quakes’ Achilles heel; no matter the strength of either side, and this Leagues Cup further proved that. Minnesota may be completely out of the playoff race at this point and may be looking to play spoiler.
Unlike in seasons past, this end-of-the-season stretch is forgiving on the Quakes. There are plenty of opportunities to solidify their playoff position during this run.
September and the start of October will be the defining moments for the team. So many tough opponents will be playing their best soccer, and the Quakes will have to go punch for punch.
In September, Nashville will be the toughest opponent. Nashville is a well-oiled machine that continues to find ways to win. They’re a team that has scouted well and found ways to upgrade within MLS.
They’re the model that the Quakes have tried so hard to follow. And they’ll be a tough nut to crack with Mukhtar up top and Zimmerman in the back. Their midfield is a dominating force and will push the Quakes around.
To begin October, they will play Dallas in another must-win match against a fringe playoff side. Dallas has been a roller coaster all season long and hasn’t found consistency. This match will be so tough given the stakes and time; this will be treated like a final.
Austin will be the final opponent for this season, and the Quakes will look to beat them at home. Like Dallas, Austin has struggled this season, but they’re a side that sees themselves as contenders. At every position, Austin has different makers; however, so many of them are struggling.
These final few months are what all players and fans dream of, securing a playoff appearance and a chance to live a dream. However, their schedule will test their faith down this stretch.
For the first time in years, the Quakes have put themselves in a great position to reach the playoffs.
In the span of close to two months, Luchi and his players will have to run the gauntlet through a mixed schedule.
Perhaps, how they will react to this pressure will tell fans how far this team has truly come.
Photo: San Jose Earthquakes