SANTA CLARA -- Forgive the Earthquakes if they kiss the ground at old Buck Shaw Stadium before their match against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday night.
It has been 56 days since the Quakes' last date in the cozy confines, and they return in a desperate state.
Eighth-place San Jose needs victories in a pivotal three-game homestand against Western Conference opponents. After facing the Sounders, they will host English side Norwich City on July 20 in a friendly, before hosting the Portland Timbers and Chivas USA.
"It's great to be back here," midfielder Sam Cronin said. "We have a big, massive game this weekend."
The Quakes are 3-1-4 at Buck Shaw this season, and 2-8-2 elsewhere. They entered the season riding an 18-game regular-season unbeaten streak (11-0-7) in Santa Clara.
San Jose (5-9-6, 21 points) and Seattle (7-6-3, 24) have split games this season, with the Sounders prevailing 4-0 on May 11 in Seattle. The rivalry was teapot hot in 2012, when the Quakes swept all three MLS meetings and dropped a tempestuous U.S. Open Cup game.
"As a player you always get excited facing the best teams," Cronin said. "The Western Conference the last couple of years has always had good teams and good players and good atmospheres at the different stadiums, so I think those games kind of take on a life of their own, and adrenaline takes you through it a lot of times."
Seattle has been on a good run, despite a 2-0 loss to rival Vancouver. Lamar Neagle, Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson share the team lead with four goals apiece. Neagle, who scored twice against San Jose on May 11, sounded confident.
"Hopefully, we'll have a few guys back, and we can get on a roll again and score some goals," he said on a team podcast. "I think we're due for one of those four-goal games again."
San Jose limps home after losses to Chicago and New England, in which they suited up only 16 players because of injuries, suspensions and national team call-ups. Gold Cup players Chris Wondolowski, Marvin Chavez and Clarence Goodson are out until August.
Jordan Stewart, a 15-year pro whom the Quakes signed Tuesday, might be rushed onto the active roster because the team is so shorthanded.
"It's been a tough year with the unpredictability of lineups, not what you want as a player or a coach," Cronin said. "It's hard to find success that way. It's been difficult for us, but we still have a lot of quality players."
After a 1-1 draw against Colorado on May 18 in Santa Clara, the Quakes tumbled during an eight-game odyssey, in which they were 2-6 in all competitions and shut out five times. A win over the Galaxy at Stanford was included in that run. Spectacular play from goalkeeper Jon Busch, who leads MLS in saves with 72, helped the team avert lopsided results.
Center back Victor Bernardez (two-game suspension) and Steven Lenhart (head contusion, laceration) are back this week. Alan Gordon has been hot with three goals over the past three games.
Seattle (7-6-3) at Earthquakes (5-9-6), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA