The San Jose Earthquakes secured their long-awaited spot in the MLS playoffs Saturday night, even though the game ended in a 1-1 draw against Austin FC.
The sold-out crowd at PayPal Park erupted into celebrations when it was confirmed that the Earthquakes were playoff-bound for the first time since 2020 and only the third time in the last 11 seasons, as the Mercury News reported.
A first-half goal by the Quakes' winger Cristian Espinoza, and seven saves from goalie Brad Stuver helped earn the 1-1 draw, per the Associated Press.
First-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez reportedly transformed the team in his inaugural season reshaping it from a team that conceded the most goals in the Western Conference to one that allowed the fourth-fewest goals. According to MLS, Gonzalez is a former FC Dallas head coach and US men’s national team assistant coach.
Still, the Earthquakes finished their season with four consecutive ties and ended with just enough points (44) to come into the playoffs as the final seed, per Mercury News.
A win on Saturday would have guaranteed the Earthquakes the opportunity to host the play-in game against Kansas City’s soccer team, Sporting KC. However, now the draw means they will go on the road to face a KC team that has won seven of their last nine games.
They’ll play in a Wednesday single-elimination Wild Card game at 6:30 p.m. PT, per MLS. Then the winner will advance to a Round One Best-of-3 series against No. 1-seed St. Louis CITY SC.
With their rebuilt defense performing admirably and standout key players like Cristian Espinoza and Jackson Yueill, the Earthquakes are setting their sights on a strong postseason performance. As Coach Gonzalez told the Mercury News, "This is a league where there are always upsets in the playoffs, there are away teams beating home teams. Do we want to be one of those teams? Why not San Jose?”
Feature image of former San Jose Earthquakes player Victor Bernardez firing the siren during the game between Austin FC and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on October 21, 2023 in San Jose, California. Photo by Maciek Gudrymowicz/ISI Photos/Getty Images.