The leaders in the Eastern Conference will take a pair of unbeaten streaks into a key late-season match as New York City FC hosts the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
NYCFC (15-5-9, 54 points), is unbeaten in its past six games overall (5-0-1), as well as its last six at Yankee Stadium, where it played to a 1-1 tie Wednesday against Toronto FC. The physical contest included a combined six yellow cards.
"We just know that we want the first spot in the Eastern Conference, so these games that are coming down to the end of the season we just have to push through," said midfielder Tony Rocha.
That recent push has NYCFC three points ahead of the Philadelphia Union in the chase for the top seed in the conference, with the Union scheduled for a road game Saturday against Supporters' Shield leader Los Angeles FC.
The Earthquakes (13-11-5, 44 points) will have their own sense of urgency as they try to remain playoff eligible in the Western Conference. They enter in fifth place in a conference traffic jam where four points separate second place from the eighth spot, which sits just below the playoff line.
Adding to San Jose's intensity level is a need to get back to its winning ways after a 1-0 loss Wednesday at Real Salt Lake. The challenges ahead extend beyond Saturday's road game against the Eastern Conference leader. The Earthquakes' last five games are all against teams that are in playoff contention.
What is the key for San Jose at NYCFC after losing four of its past six games?
"Just the urgency," said Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who has a team-leading 13 goals, four of which have come in the past five games. "I think that we are definitely a little frustrated. So I'm glad we have a game ... to try to right the ship and get back in the win column."
--Field Level Media