Austin FC has little to play for on Saturday night when it visits San Jose on Decision Day, but for the Earthquakes, a playoff spot is on the line when the ball is kicked off.
A win on Saturday would put San Jose (10-10-13, 43 points) in the postseason, which possibly could lead to the Quakes hosting an MLS playoff match for the first time since 2012. It would be a notable accomplishment for the club in Luchi Gonzalez’s first season at the helm.
“We know the stakes, but we can’t overthink it,” Gonzalez said this week, per the San Jose Mercury News. “We have to be focused on the moment.”
San Jose enters this match as the more in-form team, having gone unbeaten in its past three matches with a trio of 1-1 draws against Nashville SC, Minnesota United and FC Dallas.
Meanwhile, Austin (10-15-8, 38 points) is already eliminated from postseason contention and has lost two of its past three matches. A bright spot for Austin came on Oct. 4 when it topped D.C. United 3-0 thanks to strikes from Will Bruin, Sebastian Driussi and Matt Hedges.
A silver lining for Austin this season has been the development of Owen Wolff. The 18-year-old who is the club’s first-ever homegrown signing has featured in 26 matches this year — starting 20 — and has tallied one goal and three assists while carving out a role in the team’s midfield.
What makes things a bit awkward and tricky is that he is the son of the team’s head coach, Josh Wolff.
“I mean, he happens to share the last name with me but that has nothing to do with it — he has to prove to his teammates he’s capable of playing,” the elder Wolff told The Athletic recently. “He has done the work in training, showing he was capable.”
To get a result against San Jose, Austin will need the younger Wolff — or others — to create goal-scoring chances. Driussi leads the team in scoring this season with 11 goals. Jon Gallagher has eight assists and five goals.
The Quakes are led in scoring this season by Cristian Espinoza, who has 12 goals and 13 assists and leads MLS in key passes with 88. Jeremy Ebobisse has 10 goals for the Quakes this season.
This is the second meeting this season between San Jose and Austin. They played to a 2-2 draw on April 29.