Carson, CA – The San Jose Earthquakes accomplished a preseason goal without stepping onto the field last weekend with some help from Saturday's opponent, Chivas USA.
The Goats 2-1 defeat against Seattle last Saturday meant that the Earthquakes became the first team in MLS to clinch a playoff spot, and now Frank Yallop's team will turn its attention to bigger things.
San Jose, which clinched its second playoff spot in three seasons, sits six points clear at the top of the Western Conference and leads the race for the Supporters' Shield by three points ahead of Saturday's clash at The Home Depot Center.
Yallop has to be pleased with his team having already sealed a berth in the postseason, but he also knows there is plenty of work still to be done.
"This was our goal back in January, to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs," Yallop said. "To do so with seven games remaining is a tremendous accomplishment, but we still have work to do."
The 'Quakes will go back to work on Saturday after nearly two weeks off, and they will try to duplicate the result of their last match, a 4-0 thrashing of the same Chivas team they will face on Saturday.
San Jose has won three of its last four games and Yallop will get some reinforcements with the return to health of midfielder Shea Salinas and defenders Jason Hernandez and Jed Zayner.
Those three could all feature in Saturday's lineup, which will give Yallop more options as well as helping the team prepare for the playoffs.
"With injuries in mind, you don't want to put anybody at risk, but you want to get to a point where you feel your starting unit, going into the playoffs, is set and ready," said Yallop. "That'll work out over the next seven games."
Chivas doesn't have the luxury of resting players as the club faces a crucial final eight games, beginning on Saturday.
Head coach Robin Fraser's side is in the midst of a six-game winless streak that sees his team sitting nine points back of Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the West.
Chivas does have two games in hand on the Whitecaps, but they won't really matter if the club fails to pick up three points from those matches.
One such instance came last Saturday as the Goats could have pulled to within six points of Vancouver and put themselves in position to make a late charge.
However, after Chivas took a 1-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes, Seattle equalized and then scored the winner in the 89th minute courtesy of Eddie Johnson.
The result was a big blow to any playoff hopes Chivas has, and Fraser struggled to find many positives after the game.
"There's really no silver lining at the moment," Fraser told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "The fact of the matter is we're in a position where we need results. We put ourselves in a good spot to get results and to not get them is very difficult."
"It's a disappointing thing. We fought hard and were certainly in a position to get a point out of it. We needed three, but we didn't play as well as we needed to. As a result we put ourselves under a lot of pressure."