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San Jose Earthquakes still control playoff fate despite four-game losing streak

If the Quakes win their final two games, against Seattle and Portland, they’ll qualify for the playoffs

Shea Salinas scored both goals for the San Jose Earthquakes in their last meeting with the Seattle Sounders, a 2-2 draw at CenturyLink Field in April. (Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes have two games left in the 2019 Major League Soccer regular season, Sunday against the Seattle Sounders and next Sunday against the Portland Timbers. If they win them both, they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Quakes (13-14-5, 44 points) will host the Sounders (14-10-8, 50 points) at Avaya Stadium, where they are 10-4-2 this season. They are currently riding a season-high four-game losing streak, matching one that spanned the first four games of the campaign. San Jose had a 12-game home unbeaten streak snapped by the Philadelphia Union in a 2-1 loss on Wednesday.

Sunday’s game is not a must-win affair, as other results this weekend could provide a path to the postseason with a draw or loss, but with the season finale at Portland, the team San Jose could be battling against for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Earthquakes need to find a way to earn all three points.

Seattle has never lost at Avaya Stadium, collecting a 1-0-3 record since the venue opened in 2015. Overall, the two teams have split the series since the Sounders joined MLS in 2009, with both teams earning 10 wins and sharing 7 ties, though Seattle is unbeaten in the last eight games. The two west coast foes played at CenturyLink Field back in April, when Shea Salinas scored twice for San Jose in a 2-2 draw.

The Earthquakes welcome back from suspension their head coach, Matias Almeyda, and their two most prolific offensive players, goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski and leading assist provider Cristian Espinoza. The team will be without influential defensive midfielder Judson, who is suspended for yellow card accumulation. Anibal Godoy, who will leave the Quakes at season’s end to join expansion side Nashville SC, is expected to start in his place.

The Sounders may also be without one of their most important players, as it’s been reported that Nicolas Lodeiro may miss another game as he recovers from injury. His replacement could be Victor Rodriguez, but it is not clear he will be able to pull the strings of the Seattle offense in same manner Lodeiro has done so successfully against the Quakes in the past.

Where the Earthquakes are still fighting for their playoffs lives, the Sounders officially qualified for the postseason following the midweek loss by San Jose and draw by the Timbers. With two wins of its own to close out the season, Seattle could finish as high as second place in the West, good enough to possibly avoid playing runaway Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC until the conference final.

Wondolowski, who watched the loss to Philly from the stands, has scored 14 goals this season, 158 over his MLS career. The Quakes captain has scored 11 times in 23 appearances, 20 starts against the Sounders. For Seattle, forwards Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris lead the team in scoring, having combined for 20 goals so far this season.

The winner of the Heritage Cup, an award given to the team with the best regular season head-to-head record, will be determined on Sunday. The Quakes have the edge going in, courtesy of April’s 2-2 draw at Seattle. Since away goals count more towards the trophy, San Jose would take the prize with any win, or a scoreless or 1-1 draw. Any other result keeps the Heritage Cup in the hands of the Sounders.

Sunday’s game is the 2019 home finale for San Jose, though there is a very small chance the Quakes could host a playoff game should they qualify and early round results go their way. They will take to the road to finish their regular season campaign at Portland on Sunday as part of MLS Decision Day, when all league games will kick off simultaneously.

Match Information:

When: September 28, 4:30 p.m. PT
Where: Avaya Stadium, San Jose
Broadcast: NBC Sports California, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: ESPN+
Earthquakes injury/suspended report: Judson (yellow card accumulation)

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