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July 13, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, preview and prediction

San Jose Earthquakes LogoSounders FC (7-6-3) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (5-9-6)
Saturday, July 13, 7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV/radio: KONG 6/16, KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO 4.2), La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Sorin Stoica

KEY EARTHQUAKES PLAYERS

D Victor Bernardez — The big center back is available again, and that’s a big boost to a defense that has allowed 32 goals this season, second-worst in MLS to Chivas USA’s 35. Heck, D.C. United has only allowed 29. The 31-year-old Honduran was runner-up for MLS Defender of the Year last season, and he’s also one of the most physical intimidating specimens in the league. He can come up and smack a good free-kick, too.

F Alan Gordon — The task? Help make up for the production of reigning MVP Chris Wondolowski, who is away with the U.S. national team and, oh yeah, just scored a hat trick at the Gold Cup. Gordon has three goals and two assists in 12 games this season, which isn’t so bad. It does pale in comparison to last year, though, when he had 13 goals and seven assists in 23 games.

GK Jon Busch — Wasn’t too long ago when he won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and named to the MLS Best XI. That was in 2008 with the Chicago Fire. This year he’s leading the league with 72 saves and has faced a league-most 104 shots, so maybe it’s not necessarily all his fault for the poor stats this year — MLS-worst 32 goals allowed, 1.6 goals-against average, one shutout all season.

KEY MATCHUPS

Eddie Johnson vs. Bernardez — This should be a fun one. The Sounders forward hasn’t scored an MLS goal in almost two months (obviously he missed some time during World Cup qualifying, and scored there) so you have to know he’s motivated. Seattle’s offense hasn’t been too bad when Johnson and Lamar Neagle start up front together, 4-0 win over the Earthquakes, 4-2 win over FC Dallas, 2-2 tie at Philadelphia.

Steven Lenhart vs. Djimi Traore — The Sounders haven’t seen Lenhart in two previous games this season, and the forward is listed as probable with a head injury. The Quakes forward is known for his antics, and he baited a first-year Seattle defender into a mistake last year (earning a penalty kick off Marc Burch), so we’ll see how the ever-cool Traore handles things. Expect a lot of aerial duels, as well.

Slumping Quakes vs. Buck Shaw history — Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner has lost five of its last seven games. San Jose is 3-8-5 since the end of March. Despite the struggles, which Seattle coach Sigi Schmid thinks aren’t indicative of the Earthquakes’ quality, the series hasn’t been good for the Sounders at this venue (1-3-1 record, four goals scored, nine goals allowed).

PREDICTION

The Sounders have gotten to a point where I have no idea what to expect from them. The last two road results might suggest a struggle, but I actually think this will be a good result.

The main reason? Osvaldo Alonso is back, and Seattle is a different team with him in control. The last 14 goals have been allowed without the Cuban-American on the field. The shutout streak with him on it is 467 minutes dating to March 30.

This season it has been no secret that the forwards have played better with Lamar Neagle up there. I think the combination of it all leads to a road win.

Sounders FC 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 34′
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Lamar Neagle) 59′
SJ — Adam Jahn (Sam Cronin) 76′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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