The fashionable picks for the 2010 MLS Cup range from the LA Galaxy to the Columbus Crew to Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls. But, as last year showed, anything can happen in the Playoffs.

With that in mind, the San Jose Earthquakes seem to be peaking at the right time under the shrewd management of Frank Yallop, the former Ipswich defender. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, where six teams have a better record than the number three club in the Eastern Conference, San Jose are adrift from the leaders, but have games in hand and should clinch a Playoff spot as long as they keep their composure during the final weeks of the season.

The Earthquakes edged closer to that target with a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday. In a wide open game, where both sides could have scored six, Yallop watched his team display the fight and quality in the final third that will be so crucial in the post-season mix.

His attack looks extremely slick, with the pacy Ryan Johnson leading the line and Geovanni, the ex-Manchester City and Hull man, in the hole. The Brazilian joined the club in August as a designated player and claims to be loving life in the MLS.

But it is the wide positions that set the Earthquakes apart from some of the other contenders. Bobby Convey is a big threat on the left, but it is Chris Wondolowski on the right who is the Earthquakes’ heartbeat.

Wondolowski grabbed the headlines again on Saturday, smashing a classy hat-trick and making goal-saving challenges at the other end in a clear-cut Man of the Match performance. He has 12 MLS goals to his name this year from midfield, trailing only Edson Buddle and Juan Pablo Angel in the race for the Golden Boot, and his form has drawn MVP talk.

Yallop was very forthcoming in his praise for Wondolowski. The San Jose boss said: "Wondo has been doing it all year. He deserves everything he gets. I always have him in the team for that reason – he plays wide right and gets a hat-trick. What I really like about Wondo is he is back in his own box tackling too.

“I’ve been praising him all year and nothing has changed my mind on that. If you had to chisel an Earthquakes player out of rock, it would be Wondolowski. He is 100% committed to the team and his team-mates, and he won’t take the accolades for himself because he wants to be part of the team. He’s a dream to coach.”

An Earthquakes defence that has conceded 25 goals in 24 games looked somewhat shaky against a desperate Toronto attack, despite a solid display from Sam Cronin as the San Jose midfield anchorman. The Canadian club have slipped down the standings over the past six weeks and find themselves on the fringes of the Playoff discussion. Yet they still caused problems. Fortunately for San Jose, the attack bailed out the backline.

Some of the credit for the Earthquakes’ increased attacking threat must go to Geovanni, who arrived as a Designated Player in August. He was heavily involved for San Jose on Saturday and Yallop claimed that the Brazilian is improving with every game.

"That was his best game so far," admitted Yallop. "It takes a while as he’d not played for four months. He is very smooth, confident and an excellent player – and I think there is still more to come.

"He wants to be seen as part of the team rather than as a superstar, and our players see he works hard. He’s one of our hardest working players – and he’s got that gift on the ball as well. He has good traits and he has fitted in great."

Tough games against Chicago and Columbus loom large, but the Earthquakes go into their remaining games full of confidence and eager to climb the rankings. The dressing room is upbeat and there is a realistic chance of catching FC Dallas, who sit third.

"We’ll just try to get as many points as possible and then see who we are matched up against," said Wondolowski.

On current form, no one will be too keen to face the Earthquakes in the Playoffs.