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March 22, 2013 at 11:47 PM

Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, preview and prediction

San Jose Earthquakes LogoSounders FC (0-1-1) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1-1-1)
Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Local TV/radio: KING-5, 97.3 KIRO FM (Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Baldomero Toledo

KEY EARTHQUAKES PLAYERS

F Chris Wondolowski — The reigning MLS MVP is yet to score a goal from the run of play this year (he did score on a penalty kick) after getting a big raise in the offseason to become a designated player. Things have been a bit different for him without a physical forward partner, since Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon are out injured. Always seems to do well against Seattle, though.

M Sam Cronin — Do many people remember he was the No. 2 overall pick after Steve Zakuani in the 2009 MLS  SuperDraft? Well, he was traded from Toronto to San Jose midway through the 2010 season and he’s played 58 games for the ‘Quakes the past two years. Had six assists and a goal in the Supporters’ Shield-winning squad in 2012. Will the two-way midfielder be able to make an impact in the middle?

D Ramiro Corrales — Plays often as a midfielder, but I’m guessing he falls back to left back to fill in for Justin Morrow (who is with the U.S. national team). The 36-year-old veteran holds the title of being the only player in MLS who was active during the league’s inaugural season in 1996. He’s also a native of Salinas, Calif., which isn’t far from San Jose. Coach Sigi Schmid compared him to an early version of a homegrown player in that regard.

KEY MATCHUPS

Steve Zakuani vs. Ty Harden — With so many of Seattle’s offensive stars away on national team (Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Mario Martinez), a lot of the onus will fall on the Sounders’ speedy left winger to create. And he’s already shown he can be as dangerous as he ever was. That’ll be a tough assignment for San Jose’s right back (a converted center back) in Harden, a University of Washington product.

Adam Jahn vs. Djimi Traore — The Earthquakes have a ton of injuries up front, so I’m assuming the rookie gets his second straight start alongside Wondolowski. He’s 6 foot 3. Traore is 6 foot 3. Similar height aside, I’m going to guess these two match up often at Buck Shaw with Seattle’s best 1v1 man marker, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, assigned to the league MVP. Each of these guys has been a pleasant surprise already for his team.

Seattle’s second-string offense vs. San Jose’s second-string defense — International call-ups have affected both teams, the Sounders up front and the Earthquakes in back (Victor Bernardez and Morrow). It’s very possible we’ll see David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa up front for the visitors, so can they produce when they need to? It might be easier against a less-than-full-strength back line. Which teams reserves will win this one?

PREDICTION

Weird game. It’ll feel somewhere between a regular regular-season game and a reserve game. The small stadium makes it feel that way, too. I won’t miss Buck Shaw one bit.

I’m having trouble seeing how either team scores in this one. Seattle is yet to put a complete game together, and it’s hard to predict that happening on Saturday. The Earthquakes have Wondo, but are also down a few weapons facing what is essentially a first-choice Sounders back line.

I know most of my scoreless draw picks are reserved for Real Salt Lake games, but I have to do it…

Sounders FC 0, San Jose Earthquakes 0

*     *     *

How do you see this one playing out?

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