Seattle Sounders will leave any post-mortems until after their meeting with San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, when they hope to give supporters something to cheer.
Brian Schmetzer’s side have failed to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since entering the division in 2009.
The Sounders sit 11th in the Western Conference and can finish no higher than ninth in what has been a disappointing campaign.
However, with one eye already on the 2023 season, midfielder Albert Rusnak knows the importance of ending the year with victory on home soil at Lumen Field.
“It’s the last game of the season at home in front of our fans that have been supportive throughout the whole season,” he said.
“Through the ups and downs, they always showed up. We owe them a good performance and three points from a home game.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei added: “The main focus is we’re going to go out there and work our butts off for 90-plus minutes.
“We’re going to put it all out there for the fans and make it an enjoyable game for one more game in our stadium.”
The Quakes are bottom of the West heading into Decision Day, but they beat Minnesota United 2-0 last time out and are within two points of Houston Dynamo FC in 13th.
Sunday’s match will be the last in charge for interim head coach Alex Covelo, who replaced Matias Almeyda in April as a stand-in ahead of Luchi Gonzalez’s arrival in time for next year.
Asked if he will remain part of San Jose’s coaching staff under Gonzalez, Covelo said: “I have spoken with Luchi, nothing concretely, but I have been getting to know him more.
“He has been very respectful and let’s just finish this season first. I’m a very happy with what this team has showed on the pitch, this has been a great experience.
“These guys have made me a better coach. I just wish I had seven more games, which was 21 more possible points, and I wish I had a little more say in building of the roster.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Seattle Sounders – Jordan Morris
For the first time since 2013, when Eddie Johnson led the team with nine, Seattle may finish a season without a player reaching double figures in terms of goals. Nine-goal Ruidiaz requires “a miracle” to be fit in time to face the Quakes, according to Schmetzer, so it is over to Jordan Morris, who has seven goals, to step up.
San Jose Earthquakes – Shea Salinas
Long-serving Quakes midfielder Salinas announced his retirement last week and marked the occasion by scoring the game-winning goal against Minnesota. The 36-year-old, who has played 13 seasons for San Jose and holds the record for the all-time numbers of assists (50) for the club, should get one final run-out this weekend.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– San Jose have won two of their past three matches against the Sounders (L1) following a run of 14 straight meetings without a win (D6 L8). The Earthquakes beat Seattle 4-3 at home, on April 23, becoming the first team to defeat Seattle after trailing by two goals in the Sounders’ MLS history.
– The Sounders will miss the playoffs for the first time in club history following a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City last week.
– Seattle will set club records for fewest points (40, previous record 47 in 2009) and most losses (17, previous record 14 in 2016) in a full season this year.
– The Quakes’ 2-0 win over Minnesota United last week was their eighth win this season, but the Earthquakes have not won two in a row all season. The Earthquakes have just one win on the road all season (D4 L11), with their seven away points tied for the fewest in MLS (with Colorado).
– Salinas scored his first career direct free-kick goal in his 379th career MLS appearance and 336th for San Jose (including playoffs) in the Earthquakes’ win last week. Those 336 appearances are the eighth-most by any player for a single team in MLS history.