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March 31, 2012 at 1:36 AM

Sounders vs. San Jose, preview and prediction

San Jose Earthquakes Logo.jpgSounders FC (2-0-0) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (2-1-0)

Saturday, March 31, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV/radio: KONG-TV 6/16, 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)

Spanish TV: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114)

Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3

Referee: Mark Kadlecik

KEY SAN JOSE PLAYERS

F Chris Wondolowski — It all starts with him. The 29 year old had an MLS-best 18 goals in 2010 and followed that up with 16 last year (only to lose the Golden Boot on a tiebreaker). He’s off to his same ol’ tricks again to start this season with three goals in his first three games. It took him a while in his career to get going, but “he’s been on fire” ever since he returned to the ‘Quakes a few years ago, according to Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid.

M Marvin Chavez — He’s listed as probable on the injury report due to a concussion, so I’m thinking he’ll be all right to start. The dynamic Honduran was a big offseason addition after recording six goals and four assists for FC Dallas last season. A lot of the opposition’s attention goes to Wondolowski, so having other weapons is important, and he’s a top option on the right wing.

GK Jon Busch — The 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is settling in with San Jose, now in his third season with the team. He’s allowed just one goal this season and his 0.33 goals-against average is tied for second best in the league. If he’s needed for a big save, he’s got the skill and experience to answer the call.

KEY MATCHUPS

Steven Lenhart vs. Patrick Ianni — Expect some physical scraps between these twos. Lenhart is a big guy up front for San Jose who “throws his body around (and gets) involved in little niggling confrontations,” according to Schmid. Ianni has started the first two games of the MLS season and won’t back down to anyone physically.

Alvaro Fernandez vs. Steven Beitashour — Flaco is going to be motivated a day after being somewhat embarrassed leaguewide through a fine for embellishing contact. He’s been one of the Sounders top playmakers on the left flank and will be met by Beitashour, who was actually San Jose’s assist leader last year with seven.

Hot start vs. MLS parity — Most prognosticators I’ve seen have picked Seattle to win. And why not after a 2-0 start? But as soon as something looks obvious or unanimous, the league finds a way to prove its parity. Might this be the game that injuries and bad bounces haunt the Sounders?

PREDICTION

I’m not sure how to go with this one. I didn’t predict San Jose to be a very strong this season and their 2-1 start has forced me to rethink that. And this might be the time to steal a result in Seattle with Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson, Adam Johansson and perhaps Brad Evans out.

On the other hand, I didn’t think the Sounders would play as well as they have considering those injuries.

This is the first Western Conference bout between the two teams, so I wonder if the emphasis on conference play will effect either team’s strategy. The weather — it’s expected to be cold and rainy Saturday night — might also come into play. I’ve changed my mind a couple times already in the construction of this post, so let’s just get to it…

Sounders FC 1, San Jose Earthquakes 0

SEA — Alvaro Fernandez (Zach Scott) 59′

* * *

What do you see in this one? Another three points and a 3-0 start?

COMMENTS

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