They may still have the second-worst record in the MLS, but the San Jose Earthquakes are one of the hottest teams in the league.
And, if the Quakes beat FC Dallas at home tonight, they could prove to be a handful for Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday.
The game is a must-win for the Reds as they chase New England for the final playoff spot in the MLS. The Reds are three points behind with three to play, and hold the tiebreaker with the Revolution.
But the Earthquakes believe they are still in it, too. They are 10 points down with four to play. They need to win out to have any shot. If they beat Dallas tonight, they are still alive — and could prove to be a handful for the Reds.
“It would take a miracle for us to get in,” said Quakes head coach Frank Yallop, who led the first Earthquakes franchise, now in Houston, to two MLS Cups. “But, sometimes, miracles do happen.”
And why shouldn't San Jose believe? The teams ahead of them have been nothing short of awful of late. New England only got one point out of its last two games, and finishes with a brutal schedule — Columbus, Chicago, Columbus. D.C. United, in ninth, has lost its last three home games.
TFC has won just one of its last six.
Heck, FC Dallas is back in the race, just two points behind 10th place TFC and a point behind 11th-place Real Salt Lake, who have also been awful of late. Former Toronto FC striker Jeff Cunningham has rediscovered his scoring touch, and is tied for the league lead in goals, netting 16 for Dallas despite not getting a lot of playing time early in the season.
So, that's why TFC fans should be glued to tonight's Dallas-San Jose tilt. If Dallas wins, it passes the Reds in the standings. If San Jose wins, it stays alive.
The Earthquakes are undefeated have two wins and two draws in the last four — and the two draws both came against Colorado, who got penalty kicks awarded to it in second-half time-added-on in both matches.
“I think we are finally settled as a team,” said Yallop, a former coach of the Canadian national side. “The team is showing improving results and attitude. But we have gone back to basics. And, we haven't made any player moves in a while, so the players are settled.
“I am looking forward to next season. I think we are finally coming together as a group.”
Darren Huckerby, who had a trial with TFC but never wanted to play home games on plastic grass, was very good with San Jose, but the former Norwich City's star's chances of returning to soccer are “slim” after a severe hip injury.
On Saturday, TFC, who will lose midfielder Amado Guevara to the Honduran national team as it's a World Cup qualifying day, will have to keep a close eye on Quakes' Jamaican striker Ryan Johnson, who has three goals in his last four games.
And, don't use the word “spoiler” to describe the Quakes.
“We aren't going to go into Toronto (Saturday) to think about being spoilers or what's happening with their playoff chances,” said Yallop. “I am looking at it like we want three points for San Jose, that we want something to build on.”