Santa Clara, CA – San Jose coach Frank Yallop is likely glad Vancouver Whitecaps FC joined Major League Soccer this year, as the expansion team is the only club below his Earthquakes in the Western Conference.
Although San Jose would be just nine points off the pace in the East, it faces a 23-point gap between itself and the Los Angeles Galaxy, who lead the Western Conference.
Yallop's club has been far from horrible this season, but the 'Quakes (5-8-10) have been bitten by the tie bug - along with Saturday's opponent and defending MLS Cup champion Colorado (9-6-10).
But while Colorado is just 11 points off the pace of L.A. and four points from third place and a guaranteed postseason spot with nine victories, San Jose has just five wins.
"We have tied a lot of games that we should have won. It may have been unlucky that we did not get those wins but the table doesn't lie," said Yallop.
"We are sitting where we are sitting and it is all up to us. With us, we never give up without a fight."
At 14th in the overall table, San Jose could still climb into the top 10 - and earn a playoff spot - before the season closes, but the only number Yallop can worry about right now is his club's 10-game winless streak.
Colorado visits Buck Shaw Stadium off a 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew, who lead the Eastern Conference, and are unbeaten in four straight.
Coach Gary Smith's club suffered a blow recently when striker Conor Casey tore his Achilles, but Sanna Nyassi has helped fill the void as the Rapids continue to build toward another postseason run.
"Knowing that you are winning games, you are scoring goals, especially going away (this weekend), it means good confidence for the team," said Colorado's Omar Cummings.
Confidence may be exactly what Yallop's club needs, and a win over the MLS Cup champions could be the medicine he's been searching for since early June, when San Jose won its last match.
This weekend's game marks the end of a three-match homestand for San Jose, but with just one point from the first two matches, it would be a disaster for the Earthquakes to leave Saturday's match without at least another point.
Yallop knows the season is not over yet, though. The Earthquakes sneaked into the second season last season as lowest seed, ousted Red Bull New York 4-2 on aggregate in the conference semis and lost to Colorado in the East final.
Earning a little revenge for that defeat would help San Jose take a giant leap toward a return trip to the postseason.
"We have to look forward to (this) weekend," Yallop said. "We are still not out of it. We need to start picking up some wins. We can win at least enough to get into the playoffs."