SANTA CLARA -- Expect high drama in the Pacific Northwest when the Earthquakes renew their rivalry with the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
The top two teams in the MLS Western Conference have played three cliffhangers this season, each decided by a goal.
The Quakes (17-6-6, 57 points) prevailed 2-1 on Aug. 11 on a Steven Lenhart goal in stoppage time and 1-0 on March 31 on a Chris Wondolowski penalty kick.
But the Sounders (13-6-9, 48) won a heated contest 1-0 in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals in June in San Francisco.
Now, with five games remaining for San Jose in the regular season, the pressure will be ramped up even more at CenturyLink Field.
"It's always a battle with them up there," goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "It will be a great atmosphere. They'll be pumped and ready to go, and we will, too."
Added target man Alan Gordon, "These are the games that really matter."
The Quakes, who lead Sporting Kansas City by three points in the race for the Supporters' Shield, hope to have explosive wing Marvin Chavez (hamstring strain) available this weekend, but his status remains uncertain.
The Sounders will be without key forward Eddie Johnson (yellow card accumulation).
The sprightly Chavez would come in handy against the Sounders' compact style.
"Width is a big thing against Seattle because they play very narrow," Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. "They're a good side at home, always well coached, I
Seattle is brimming with confidence after a 3-2 midweek win over host CD Marathon of Honduras to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. With an eye toward Saturday's showdown, Schmid shuffled his lineup.
The Sounders want this one badly.
"It's a six-point game against San Jose," Schmid said. "We need to get three points here to put ourselves in serious contention for the Western (Conference) title and keep our distance from the Galaxy and the teams chasing up behind us, as well. "
A noted Sounders killer, Wondolowski could be poised for one of his patented late-season tears.
His two goals in a 2-2 draw against visiting Portland on Wednesday were his first in the run of play in MLS since July 14.
"It's good. I always love seeing the ball hit the back of the net," Wondolowski said. "It's positive. We've found out that I'm definitely a bit streaky."
The Quakes, who have rallied for a win or a tie eight times this season, relied on their customary resolve and crash-the-goal mentality as they rallied from two down against Portland.
Wondolowski and Gordon came off the bench to spur the attack.
"Wondo saved our bacon with two great goals," Busch said. "We've got to learn from it. It's a great reality check for us."
In the game's aftermath, Gordon spoke of his team's hard work, determination and belief. Down 2-0 after Danny Mwanga's goal in the 63rd minute, Quakes players gathered on the field.
"We were just reinforcing," Gordon said. "We were getting our game plan going, getting everybody on the same page, just saying, 'Let's stay together and stay patient, work hard, and let's do it.' And we did."
Portland's interim coach Gavin Wilkinson doesn't need any more convincing.
"They have a belief. When you start scoring goals late in games it starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Wilkinson said. "You have to take your hat off to Frank Yallop and (general manager) John Doyle and what they've done."
Earthquakes at Seattle, 7:30 p.m. CSNCA