San Jose Earthquakes (4-2-1, tied for second in the Western Conference)
Head coach: Frank Yallop, third year
Last week: Drew at New England 0-0
Last year: 7-14-9, last place in the West
KEY SAN JOSE PLAYERS
M Bobby Convey — Once expected to be the next big thing in American soccer, Convey is really producing this season. The 26 year old has five assists and got on such a hot streak that some insisted he deserved a call-up to USMNT camp.
F Chris Wondolowski — This guy has been one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. He already has four goals, a total he barely reached in his first five years of MLS. He was the other end of the trade that sent ex-Sounder Cam Weaver to Houston.
D Jason Hernandez — The Earthquakes defense has been stellar in the last few weeks earning three straight shutouts. Sigi Schmid said S.J. defends well as a group with 8-9 guys, but Hernandez has been a mainstay in the back.
Convey v. Seattle defender James Riley — The Earthquakes left winger is their playmaker. Riley has the fitness and experience to slow him down. The counterattack might be something to watch between these two.
San Jose forward Ryan Johnson v. Seattle defenders Hurtado/Marshall — Johnson is a great athletic talent up front for the visitors. He currently has less goals (1) than the team’s rookie defender Ike Opara (2), but you never want to be the one that starts the hot streak (like Alvario Saborio?).
Earthquakes bunker-down defense v. Hopeful crowd-pleasing Seattle offense — Teams come into Qwest and sit back. It’s something that the Sounders hate, but it’s hard to blame. The strategy has generally worked. Steve Zakuani says scoring early is the key, while Freddie Ljungberg said it’s staying patient and wearing the opponent down. We’ll see if it works.
A long season generally evens things out. The good teams have enough time to rise to the top. The quick starters eventually find their true form and level out. That’s what I think will happen in this one. I think Seattle is better than a 3-3-3 team and San Jose might be flattering itself with a 4-2-1 record.
Seattle’s injuries are a concern however. There might be sure shakeup at center midfield and forward, considering the personnel available. Either way I expect the Sounders to control the run of play and produce the majority of the chances with some dynamic options up top.
Sounders FC 2, San Jose 0
55′ — Ljungberg (pk)
81′ — Zakuani (Ljungberg)