Sounders FC (13-6-9) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6)
Saturday, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV/radio: KONG-TV 6/16, KIRO-FM 97.3 (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
KEY EARTHQUAKES PLAYERS
F Chris Wondolowski — Who else? He’s nearly a runaway for MLS MVP with 21 goals this season in 27 games. As a comparison, Chivas USA as a team has 21 goals in 28 games. He also has seven assists, which would be good enough for second-best on the Sounders. Has an incredible talent for moving in the box, timing his runs, being in the right place and finishing chances. Has done well against Seattle, too, with four goals in the series.
M Simon Dawkins — Another weapon in an arsenal where four players have seven or more goals and four players have seven or more assists. He’s more of a goal-scorer from midfield with seven on the season. On loan from Tottenham Hotspur of the Premier League in England — you might know it as Clint Dempsey’s new team — which is a good indicator of his talent.
D/M Ramiro Corrales — The steady veteran is the only one in MLS who played in the league’s inaugural 1996 season. He’s got eight assists from his left flank and also a couple goals scored directly off free kicks. Might have a matchup advantage on his side of the field if Mauro Rosales isn’t able to start. Had a season-high four shots earlier this week vs. Portland.
Steve Zakuani vs. Steven Beitashour — The Sounders winger has started the past three games and shown flashes of his ability, but sometimes not consistently enough. The key is his return to form will be creating dangerous chances at a higher rate, which should come with time. He’ll face a tough task in San Jose’s regular right back, a 2012 MLS All-Star who was called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for a friendly in Mexico (but didn’t play).
Alan Gordon vs. Jeff Parke — The surprise of the year might be the ‘Quakes veteran forward, whose 12 goals are more than he had scored in the previous three years combined. He’s been getting more of the starts recently, and didn’t vs. Portland, which makes me think he’ll be back in the lineup tonight. Parke was rested in Honduras and should be ready to go; his aerial prowess will be tested.
The best team vs. the motivated team — It’s clear that San Jose has been the class of the league, even if it has come through a number of late goals and comebacks. They’ve earned a nine-point cushion in the West, which is impressive in a difficult conference. But this is Seattle’s only chance to stay alive in the Supporters’ Shield race and there will be additional motivation to clinch a playoff berth and also stave off Real Salt Lake and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Not sure how to go on this one — keep in mind, I’ve accurately picked the result (not necessarily the score) in my last five predictions. Four of six voting MLSsoccer.com editors picked the Sounders to win, but I fear the potential absence of Rosales might weigh heavily.
His quad strain has seemingly taken much longer to heal than expected and Seattle is a different team without him. Couple that with the suspension of Eddie Johnson and I think this one will play fairly evenly.
I see this one ending in a tie.
Sounders FC 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1
SJ — Sam Cronin (Rafael Baca) 56′
SEA — Jeff Parke (Christian Tiffert) 80′
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How do you see this one playing out?