The San Jose Earthquakes will storm into a key road showdown against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday after going unbeaten in five of their previous six contests, while planting themselves above the playoff line.
The game, at the Whitecaps' adopted home venue of Providence Park in Portland, Ore., will be between the two teams closest to the playoff line in the Western Conference. The Whitecaps (7-12-0, 21 points) are in eighth place, while the Earthquakes (6-7-6, 24 points) are in seventh.
San Jose's defense might be playing as well as it has all season. A 4-0 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 14 was one thing, but Sunday's 0-0 tie with the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders, and on the road no less, highlighted the team's defensive continuity.
"I think we now see a team that works hard, where everyone runs and everyone plays," San Jose head coach Matias Almeyda said. "The players now play with a confidence that they didn't have a month ago. I hope they can keep this momentum, stay calm, and strive for more."
Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski made his 300th MLS start, becoming just the third player to do so after Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman.
The Whitecaps will enter off a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to the Galaxy when youngster Kai Koreniuk scored the game-winner in stoppage time. Adding to the disappointment of the defeat was that the Galaxy were on a six-game losing streak and had gone winless in their previous seven.
Forced to make Portland home because of international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver has won each of its last two games at Providence Park. They are 2-1 overall as the "home" team there, but the one defeat was to the Portland Timbers.
Perhaps the setting will change Vancouver's fortunes against San Jose this season. The Earthquakes earned a 3-0 victory over the Whitecaps on Oct. 7 and had a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over them at the MLS is Back Tournament at Orlando in July.
"We can beat this team, and not only (by) a close score," Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini said. "We can even make it a big score, but that depends on us. These next four games, we have to win them all. We're in a playoff position right now, but we have to maintain that. That's the hardest thing."
--Field Level Media