The difference between avoiding the knockout round and playing in it is slim in the Western Conference.
With that in mind, Sporting KC hopes to gain three more points by beating the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night at Avaya Stadium.
Sporting KC (14-7-6), which has won five of six, enters the game in second place with 48 points. It is a point behind FC Dallas and two ahead of LAFC while Real Salt Lake and Portland lurk behind with 44 points.
The two top seeds avoid playing in the knockout round while the third and fourth seeds host a game in the knockout round Oct. 31 or Nov. 1.
Sporting KC is not looking past a meeting with the worst team in the league
“We view this as any other match. It’s a big game for us. San Jose is a good team. They have some very strong aspects to their game we have to be really concerned with,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes told mlssoccer.com. “That’s an important aspect — if you want to get a result, you have to make sure you understand and respect your opponent’s strengths and that’s what we have to do against San Jose.”
Sporting KC might be in better position if not for a 3-1 loss at Seattle two weeks ago. They allowed a pair of fluky goals to halt a four-game winning streak but rebounded with a 1-0 win over Orlando City last week for their 10th shutout win of the season.
Felipe Gutierrez scored in the 53rd minute for his first goal since March 31 and in his eighth game since undergoing sports hernia surgery. Tim Melia stopped three shots.
San Jose (4-15-8) are four points ahead of the Chicago Fire and Colorado Rapids in the race for the fewest points in the MLS. The Earthquakes are 2-3-1 in their last six games after a 12-game winless skid (0-7-5). They own two wins over FC Dallas and 13 of their losses are by one goal.
San Jose won its last home game 4-3 over FC Dallas on Aug 29 and followed it up with a 2-1 loss at Vancouver two weeks ago when Vako Qazaishvili scored in stoppage time.
Danny Hoesen (10 goals), Qazaishvili (9 goals, 5 assists) Chris Wondolowski (8 goals) have combined for 27 of the club’s 41 MLS goals.
“I think mentally and physically we all needed a few days off and we got that, so coming back in training on Monday we were all sharp and looking forward to this game Saturday,” San Jose defender Jimmy Ockford said. “We can expect a good soccer team, working the ball around really well, they’ve got good players all around. It’s going to be a tough one.”
—Field Level Media