As the San Jose Earthquakes continue their pursuit of the Supporters' Shield, the Colorado Rapids will play out the season knowing they will miss the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Owners of the league's best record, the visiting Earthquakes can sweep the season series with a third consecutive win over the Rapids on Saturday night.
San Jose (18-6-7) salvaged a 3-all tie with FC Dallas last Saturday when Steven Lenhart scored his second goal of the game in second-half stoppage time. The effort left the Earthquakes with a league-leading 61 points -- three better than Sporting Kansas City in the race for the Supporters' Shield, awarded to the team with the best record.
Each team has three matches remaining.
The Earthquakes, who have secured their second playoff berth since returning to MLS in 2008 after a two-year hiatus, won the Shield in 2005. San Jose, 4-0-2 in its last six, has scored 12 winning or tying goals in the 82nd minute or later, and also has a league-record nine goals in second-half stoppage time.
Alan Gordon added a goal and two assists for the Earthquakes last Saturday and has two goals and four assists in his last three contests.
Gordon scored two of his career-high 13 goals and added an assist in a 4-1 home win over Colorado on Aug. 25. He and Lenhart have combined for 23 of the Earthquakes' MLS-leading 65 goals.
"I think Gordon and Lenhart are very underrated with their touch," forward Chris Wondolowski, who has a league-leading 22 goals, told the Earthquakes' official website. "They can definitely bang with the best of them, be physical, fast and powerful, but they have a bit of class as well."
Wondolowski scored on a penalty kick in a 2-1 win at Colorado on June 20. He has two goals in his last three matches against the Rapids.
Two years after winning the MLS Cup, Colorado (9-18-4) is out of the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Rapids were eliminated from contention when Vancouver beat Chivas USA 4-0 on Wednesday.
"We've still got three games left and we want to get all nine points still, so that doesn't change the mentality of the group as far as going out strong and ending the season the right way," goalkeeper Matt Pickens told MLS' official website.
Jaime Castrillon scored in the 16th minute to help the Rapids to a 1-all draw with Los Angeles on Sunday. Colorado has gone 3-12-3 in its last 18 and is on a three-game winless streak.
Despite those overall struggles, the Rapids are 2-0-2 in their last four at home.
Castrillon has a team-leading eight goals on the season but has managed two shots against the Earthquakes.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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