Nashville SC, San Jose battle for crucial playoff points

ByReuters ESPN logo
Friday, September 22, 2023

The San Jose Earthquakes will aim for some badly needed goals and points when they host Nashville SC's sturdy defense on Saturday.

Both Nashville (12-9-7, 43 points) and San Jose (10-10-10, 40 points) are in seventh place in their respective conferences, though Nashville has a bit more breathing room in its push for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Only eight points separate second place from 10th in the compact Western Conference, so a loss Saturday and some unfavorable results in other matches could put the Earthquakes below the playoff line entirely.

San Jose is 1-3-2 in its last six matches, including Wednesday's 2-1 road loss to the Portland Timbers. Portland is now one point behind the Earthquakes in the West standings, as San Jose missed a chance to create separation in the playoff race.

"We need to have a short memory and move on quickly," Earthquakes coach Luchi Gonzalez said after Wednesday's match. "I thought we could be better in the attacking third ... We need more (goals) and a little bit more determination and final action that I know we have in us."

Finding that offense could be difficult against Nashville SC, whose 27 goals allowed are the fewest in MLS. Nashville earned its ninth clean sheet of the season in Wednesday's 3-0 road shutout of Sporting Kansas City.

The victory ended a six-match winless drought (0-4-2) for Nashville SC. Head coach Gary Smith felt the respite and training time provided by the 18-day break in their schedule was critical to his team's improved form.

"A bit of rest and recovery, or some possessional work and some structure in the team, that was there to see (against Kansas City)," Smith said.

2022 MLS Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar is again battling for the award. The Nashville forward has 15 goals this season to lead the league and has scored in each of his last two matches.

San Jose defender Rodrigues is questionable to face Nashville after leaving Wednesday's match with an undisclosed injury.

--Field Level Media