Action from the CONCACAF Champions League game between host Heredia and the San Jose Earthquakes (black) Toluca on August 28, 2013, at the Estadio Cementos Progreso in Guatemala City. (Photo: Juan Meono)
SANTA CLARA, California -- A berth in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals is at stake when the San Jose Earthquakes host Heredia in the final Group 5 match on Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Heredia and the Impact de Montreal are currently tied atop the table on six points each, with San Jose three points behind. The Canadian side, however, has already been eliminated since it cannot advance on tiebreakers.
The group winner will be decided in fairly simple fashion: Heredia needs just a draw to go through, while the Earthquakes will finish first with a win. Both teams are attempting to reach the knockout stage for the first time in their first CCL appearance.
Heredia defeated San Jose, 1-0, in the teams’ initial Group Stage meeting in Guatemala City on August 28. A 68th minute goal by Nelson Miranda proved to be the margin of difference.
The Guatemalans enter into this encounter on the heels of a 2-1 loss to Marquense in the Guatemalan Apertura on Sunday.
San Jose is currently on a seven-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, recording clean sheets in six of those outings, including a 3-0 CCL win over Montreal on September 17.
The Earthquakes drew 0-0 at the LA Galaxy on Sunday, a result that all but eliminated the northern California squad from qualifying for the MLS playoffs.
With chances of reaching the post-season slim, San Jose turns its attentions on progressing to the knockout stage of the Champions League. All players are available for selection.
“I think it maybe would have been a little different scenario if we’d gotten the result Sunday and had a big game [upcoming on] Saturday,” San Jose interim coach Mark Watson told reporters Tuesday. “You’d have to think a little more about how you manage three games in seven days. But our focus is 100 percent on tomorrow night and we will … put [out] the most competitive team possible we can.”
Due to Sunday’s bitter domestic result, the players actually welcome the short turnaround for Wednesday’s critical match.
“It’s nice that we have this game Wednesday, where we can jump right back in there,” San Jose defender Clarence Goodson told MLSsoccer.com. “This is a must-win game for us as well, so there hasn’t been any time to really switch off. As disappointing as that was on Sunday, we have to file that away and move on. It’s nice to know we still have something to play for.”