The San Jose Earthquakes' hopes of a successful late push into the MLS playoffs hinge on being able to beat the in-form Colorado Rapids when the West rivals square off Wednesday.
The Earthquakes sit four points behind the Rapids for fifth place and the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and anything short of a victory would cripple San Jose's postseason hopes.
A win would secure a playoff berth for the Rapids, while an Earthquakes victory would pull San Jose to within a point of the Rapids with two matches to play.
Beating the Rapids won't be easy considering Colorado is coming off its best performance of the season in a 5-1 dismantling of the Seattle Sounders. The rookie tandem of Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers was instrumental in the destruction of the Sounders, but neither will feature on Wednesday. Brown has been called up by the Jamaican national team, while Powers is out with a concussion. Panamanian forward Gabriel Torres is also set to miss the match while on international duty as well.
Colorado's impressive depth should help offset those absences, with Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris among the options to replace Brown and Torres in the lineup, and Nick LaBrocca and Nathan Sturgis options to start in central midfield alongside Hendry Thomas.
The Rapids attack still has plenty of firepower, with Uruguayan forward Vicente Sanchez quickly emerging as force in the offense. Sanchez has recorded four assists in five starts since joining Colorado this summer, and he and Martin Rivero give the Rapids the technical quality to test a San Jose defense that will be without Victor Bernardez (international duty with Honduras) and Clarence Goodson (injured).
The Earthquakes are coming off a bye week. Prior to that they registered a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA in a match their offense didn't create much. The going will be much tougher against a Rapids defense that has allowed just four goals in its past six matches. Striker Steven Lenhart is suspended for the match, which will put even more pressure on Chris Wondolowski to carry the attack. Wondolowski halted his own goal drought by scoring the late winner in the victory over Chivas USA.