MLS veterans Ramiro Corrales #12 of the San Jose Earthquakes and Pablo Mastroeni #25 of the Colorado Rapids battle for control of the ball at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on September 24, 2011 in Commerce City, Colorado.
When the San Jose Earthquakes embarked on a three games in eight days road trip just over a week ago, they held out scant hope that a good run of form could vault them back into the MLS playoff chase. Instead, after earning two draws and a loss in matches at Houston, Portland, and Colorado, the Earthquakes return to San Jose all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason hunt. Sure, the pronouncement of their failing to qualify for bonus soccer has not been officially announced, but the chances that the Quakes will lift the MLS Cup late in November are only slightly better than backup goalkeeper David Bingham scoring another goal against EPL competition in 2011.
Still, the Earthquakes will play out their four remaining regular season games as best they can. After all, for some players on the team, these last few weeks of the season will be a proving ground as to whether they will be in the team's plans for 2012. With Montreal entering the league next season, the Quakes management brain trust must still navigate the treacherous waters of the MLS expansion draft. Getting lucky again -- like they did with high-priced and superfluous players Joe Cannon and Arturo Alvarez being selected in 2010 -- is a possibility, but with so many younger players getting minutes and attention, the odds are high that a quality player will be lost to the Canadian side.
What are your thoughts on players you want to see more of over the last month of the season? Which core players should the Earthquakes protect in the expansion draft. Have you seen enough of Simon Dawkins and Maxwell Griffin to decide whether the team should make their loans permanent? So many questions, and so much time to discuss...