The Earthquakes can gain some much-needed momentum going into the last few months of the season with a busy week ahead that includes squaring off with their biggest rival, the Los Angles Galaxy. Coach Mark Watson understands the importance of this rivalry between San Jose and Los Angeles.
"Every time we play those guys, you can feel the intensity, every game comes down to the wire," he said Monday.
Before their showdown with the Galaxy on Saturday, the Earthquakes will continue their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign against the Seattle Sounders, the top team in Major League Soccer in terms of points. The fifth-round match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in Tukwila, Wash.
This will be the Quakes' first game since defeating the Sacramento Republic 2-1 13 days ago in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Watson isn't worried about any rust from his team.
"This break has been beneficial, we have been able to rest physically and even more importantly, mentally," Watson said.
The Quakes will have their hands full as the Sounders beat PSA Elite handily in the last round 5-0 and are looking to win their fourth Open Cup championship in six years.
After their game tonight, the Quakes will be looking forward to Saturday, when they will face off with the Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. at Stanford Stadium in the California Clasico.
Watson says his team feeds off the atmosphere at Stanford. The last two years, the attendance has been 50,000-plus and will likely draw similar numbers Saturday.
"It is always electric in that stadium, it is an incredible event and the last two games there have been classics," Watson said.
In the 2012 Clasico, the Galaxy took a 3-1 lead before the Earthquakes scored three unanswered goals for a 4-3 victory. Last year, the Quakes were down 2-1 before scoring twice in second-half stoppage time for an improbable 3-2 victory. Watson joked that he wanted a less dramatic win for his team this time around.
With the Galaxy and Earthquakes in seventh and eighth place, respectively, in the MLS Western Conference, both teams need to pick it up if they want to make the MLS Cup playoffs. Sometimes beating a rival can be the start of something special.
The Quakes will be without leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski, who is competing with the U.S. in the World Cup in Brazil. Watson was upbeat when talking about Wondolowski and the rest of the U.S. team.
"I am proud and excited for the U.S team," he said. "They beat Ghana and I thought they played better than Portugal over the course of the game. Germany [Thursday's opponent] will be a good test for them to see what they are made of."