San Jose, Real Salt Lake battle for playoff position
San Jose and Real Salt Lake stand at the cusp of making the playoff field in the MLS Western Conference heading into their match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Wednesday night.
The Earthquakes (9-10-6) are one point away behind No. 6 Vancouver in a qualifying spot with 33 points.
Real Salt Lake (8-13-5) is in desperate need of a victory at the No. 8 spot with 29 points. A victory puts it right in the thick of the playoff race. A defeat puts Real Salt Lake seven points back of San Jose and potentially eight behind Vancouver if the Whitecaps defeat No. 1 Seattle on Wednesday.
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Real Salt Lake plays only Western Conference opponents the rest of the season, and five of its last eight matches are at home.
“We’re right in the thick of it,” Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said. “There’s nobody worrying. There’s nobody panicking.”
The Earthquakes must overcome their woeful road showing this season to pull out the victory. They are 2-9-1 on the road as they head into a three-match swing away from Avaya Stadium. After visiting Real Salt Like, they play at the LA Galaxy on Sunday and Toronto FC on Sept. 9.
San Jose has lost five straight road games and was outscored 17-3 in that span.
On the flip side, Real Salt Lake has won 33 percent of its home matches (4-4-4) this year, its lowest winning percentage since the 2010 season.
Chris Wondolowski’s goal against Philadelphia last week was his 10th of the season for the Earthquakes. He now has at least 10 goals in eight consecutive regular seasons, which is an MLS season record.
“It’s a testament to a player that has got it done consistently at the highest level for now eight consecutive seasons,” said San Jose coach Chris Leitch, who was once Wondolowski’s teammate. “That’s a heck of a feat and testament to what kind of quality player he is, not just in one given season, but season after season. That’s tough to do in one season, even more impressive to stack eight on top of one another, and I don’t think he’s done yet this year, that’s for sure.”
Wondolowski and Real Salt Lake’s attack will go against goaltender Nick Rimando, whose save percentage of 67.5 is his lowest since the start of the 2010 season.