Considering how bad they’ve been on the road, the San Jose Earthquakes know they must take advantage of two upcoming games at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Well out of the playoff picture, San Jose seeks a sixth consecutive home victory as it meets the Philadelphia Union.
The Earthquakes (9-11-7) follow this matchup with a home game next Saturday against Vancouver, one of the many teams they’re chasing in the Western Conference race. San Jose is second-to-last in the West but has seven games remaining to grab one of the conference’s five playoff spots.
“Going into these two games, we know the importance of picking up points to try to keep ourselves in the playoff hunt,” goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “These next two games are critical for us.”
Particularly because they are at Buck Shaw Stadium, where the Earthquakes have lost one regular-season contest over the past two years. That defeat came in the season opener - 2-0 to Real Salt Lake on March 3 - and they’ve since gone 8-0-3 at home.
On the road, meanwhile, they have gone 1-10-3 and been shut out nine times.
The current five-game home win streak is the club’s longest since 2002.
“It’s the 12th man and it really gets us going,” Busch told the team’s official website. “We love playing there, and as long as we don’t have to deal with the sun in the first half, we’re good.”
Busch has allowed 0.8 goals per game this season at home compared to 2.0 on the road.
San Jose hasn’t scored in three of its last four road games, including a 3-0 defeat at Los Angeles last Saturday. The Earthquakes, ranked 16th in MLS with 28 goals, have been held to single-digit shots in three straight matches.
Philadelphia (10-8-9) is also struggling offensively as top scorer Jack McInerney (10 goals) has not scored in 10 straight games.
The Union have only five goals in their last seven games but have shut out five of those opponents, including a scoreless draw against Montreal last Saturday.
“It wasn’t just the back line,” manager John Hackworth told the team’s official website. “I thought our whole team played a really good game defensively.”
Central defender Amobi Okogu missed that game and will sit out this one due to a two-game suspension, but Sheanon Williams has helped keep the defense sturdy as he’s shifted to center back.
“He’ll make all the little plays, the ones that you need to win and be successful,” defender Jeff Parke said. “… He’s a great teammate and the kind of winning player every club would want.”
The Union enter Sunday in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we’re all human and like to look and see what the standings are like, but when it’s time to play, we’re completely focused on that game on that day,” Williams said.
San Jose starting defender Victor Bernardez will be away on international duty, as will midfielder Marvin Chavez.
The Earthquakes are 3-1-1 in the all-time series, and Philadelphia hasn’t scored in two trips to San Jose while going 0-1-1.
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