While each of the seven final Major League Soccer games for the Union take on a high degree of urgency, they really enter a dangerous situation Sunday when visiting the San Jose Earthquakes. That's because the Union will face a team seemingly in a more desperate situation than they are.
Five teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference will make the playoffs. The Union begin the weekend in a deceptive fourth place in the East, just two points ahead of the teams tied for fifth, New England and Houston. Both those teams own a game in hand on the Union.
Meanwhile, San Jose enters the weekend in eighth place in the Western Conference, five points out of the fifth and final playoff spot.
A loss wouldn't eliminate the Earthquakes, but they would find it awfully difficult to qualify. San Jose is coming off a 3-0 loss to the host Los Angeles Galaxy. The fact that San Jose is even in a more desperate situation than the Union isn't lost on team manager John Hackworth.
"I think it adds to the fact that San Jose is in a position they have to win this game at home and coming off a negative result," Hackworth said. "It puts a lot of pressure on them to perform."
Then again, that doesn't lessen the pressure on the Union.
"The game is equally important for us," Hackworth said.
Maybe, but the Union could probably survive a loss more than Earthquakes, who have had a strange season, to say the least.
This is a team that had the best regular-season record in MLS last year but started off 3-6-3 and replaced coach Frank Yallop with interim coach Mark Watson.
The Earthquakes are 1-10-3 on the road, but 8-1-4 at home, so holding service against the Union seemingly puts the Earthquakes in a must-win situation.
"This is a huge game, but I don't think you can say it is a must-win and that if you don't win, the season is over," Watson said in a phone interview. "Everybody understands the significance of it."
The Earthquakes play four of their final seven at home, and since the road has been so difficult, they can't let these chances slip away.
The Union rebounded from a 5-1 loss at New England to play the Eastern Conference's first-place team, the Montreal Impact, to a 0-0 tie Saturday at PPL Park.
"It's always important to rebound after a game in which you play so poor," Union defender Jeff Parke said. "I thought we were the better team and proud of the guys that they put the New England game behind them."
The Union can't look at this as if they have nothing to lose since they will be on the road and on the West Coast, no less.
"With seven games left, every point is dire, and coming to San Jose it definitely is important to get at least one point on the road," Parke said.
That would be one point against a team that really needs three to keep its playoff hopes alive. Making the task of earning at least one point on the road even more difficult than usual.
Contact Marc Narducci at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow
on Twitter @sjnard.