Heavyweights of the Western Conference collide late this Saturday evening when the San Jose Earthquakes host the visiting Seattle Sounders.
Buck Shaw Stadium will be on their feet as their beloved Quakes return home following a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew in their first away match of the season. The Sounders are still in search of their first win of the season, coming off a heartbreaking late equalizer from Portland at CenturyLink Field last week.
With the International Break currently abound, there will be some key absences from both sides, giving the look of a stripped down version of both sides’ senior squads.
Notable absences from San Jose include Justin Morrow, who is away with the USA, and Victor Bernardez, who is traveling with Honduras. Seattle new-boy and Nigerian sensation, Obafemi Martins, will miss a potential second match due to international responsibilities, being joined by the Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez and the American Eddie Johnson.
In the ten meetings that these clubs have had, the Earthquakes hold the historical advantage, coming away with five wins on 14 goals to Seattle’s four wins on 11 goals, with one draw.
With last year’s record-tying performance from Wondolowski and the internationally depleted look to both sides, expect that goal tally to increase. The MLS MVP of 2012 had a particular taste for goal against the Sounders, scoring in two out of the three appearances he had against the Washington state-based side.
Chris Wondolowski vs. Seattle’s Defense
With the depleted look to Seattle’s side and the decision to release Adam Johansson during the week, a considerable effort will be needed by Seattle’s defense if they want to keep the goal-scoring touch of Wondolowski at bay. The San Jose forward and record holder has an immense work rate, with his movement off-the-ball being key to his successes in recent seasons. If Seattle wants a draw, let alone a win, they’re going to need to stay smart on defense and contain and neutralize the threat that Chris Wondolowski brings to the table.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Sam Cronin
Alonso is the vital link from defense to attack for Seattle, winning back possession within the mayhem in the middle of the park and distributing incisively on the counterattack. With the absence of three attacking players, in Johnson, Martinez, and Martins, Alonso will be key in picking up the pieces and utilizing whoever Sigi Schmid decides to place up front in lieu of absences. Sam Cronin of the Quakes will be looking to out-play Alonso with his intercepting ability in the holding midfield role.
Advantage goes to San Jose in this one. Not only are the Earthquakes at home this Saturday, but their opponent is without key pieces going forward, despite San Jose’s loss of a key defender to international duties. This means that all the action will be down in Seattle’s defensive third as San Jose will be looking to press the advantage and come away with three points.
Final Score: San Jose 2-1 Seattle. Look for Wondolowski to score a brace in this one.