The Seattle Sounders are on the verge of clinching another playoff berth but will need to earn their first point of the season against the league's best team to do it Saturday night.
In a matchup of the Western Conference's top clubs, the Sounders look to avoid a third loss in as many MLS matches with the San Jose Earthquakes this year but won't have leading goal scorer Eddie Johnson to help.
Seattle (13-6-9) has made it to the postseason each year since joining the league in 2009 and can continue that run with a tie or a win against San Jose (17-6-6). The Sounders would appear to have a promising chance as they've won six consecutive home games, including a single-season franchise-record four straight in league play.
They're also 3-0-2 in their last five MLS matches overall and 11-1-6 in all competitions dating back to late June. The lone loss in that stretch, though, was a 2-1 defeat in San Jose on Aug. 11.
The Sounders also fell 1-0 to the Earthquakes at home March 31 but beat them 1-0 in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal in San Francisco on June 26.
Seattle, two points ahead of Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake, can pull within six of San Jose with a victory and has a game in hand.
"We need to get three points here to put ourselves in serious contention for the Western division title and keep our distance from (Los Angeles) and the teams chasing up behind us," coach Sigi Schmid told the team's website. "It's a big game."
The match with San Jose is part of a significant week that began with a 1-all draw with rival Portland last Saturday. Seattle visited Honduras on Wednesday and earned a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals despite resting some starters.
Johnson has 13 goals not counting one Wednesday, but he'll miss this game after picking up his sixth yellow card of the season against Portland. However, Johnson's teams are 0-9-2 all-time against the Earthquakes when he plays.
San Jose had a three-game win streak end Wednesday but overcame a two-goal deficit in the second half to finish with a 2-all draw against visiting Portland.
Chris Wondolowski helped the Earthquakes salvage a point by scoring two goals late, including one in stoppage time. Their lead in the Supporters' Shield race dropped to three points over Sporting Kansas City.
"I think it's a reality check for us," goalkeeper Jon Busch told the league's website. "Everybody wants a piece of us, because we're at the top of the league."
Wondolowski's career-best 21 goals, including four in the past five games, are seven more than any other MLS player and the most in one season since 2002.
He scored on a penalty kick in the 24th minute during San Jose's previous visit to Seattle. Steven Lenhart had the tiebreaking goal in stoppage time during the home win over the Sounders last month.