The San Jose Earthquakes aren't having a good year. Their point total is pretty far off an MLS Cup Playoff pace. The magic of Wondolowski is gone. Goonies do die. Injury woes contine. Frank Yallop was fired/let-go/walked-away. It's a terrible, no good, very bad year in the South Bay. Yes, that got a win against Seattle in that early season game, but then they came to the Sound and got crushed.
That second result may be more true to the two teams' forms on the year. San Jose has the joint worst defense in MLS (by Goals Against) and the third worst Goal Differential. Seattle could be the third winningest road team this year with a win. That yet-to-come win would also put the Sounders at their best ever point total at the halfway point of a season (a draw ties them for second).
This week's not-quite-a-rivalry game is a 7:30 PM game on KING 5. Joining us for Four Questions is Robert from Quake, Rattle and Goal.
SaH: The Gold Cup seems to have hurt San Jose worse than most MLS sides. How much of the call up damage was to regular starters?
QRG: Other than perhaps Real Salt Lake, no other team in MLS has suffered as big a hit as the San Jose Earthquakes due to international call-ups to the Gold Cup. If not playing for the U.S., hat trick hero Chris Wondolowski and stalwart defender Clarence Goodson would certainly be in the starting lineup this weekend against Seattle. Midfield catalyst Marvin Chavez, a key component to the Quakes attack, is also missing, as he is featuring and scoring goals for Honduras. Canadian call-up Nana Attakora was released back to the Quakes earlier this week, but an ongoing injury concern due to concussion symptoms would have ruled the central defender out anyways. Looking ahead to knockout rounds of the Gold Cup, the U.S. could even add Alan Gordon to the squad, since the Earthquakes forward was included in the preliminary 35-man roster. Is the Gold Cup tournament a good thing for San Jose? Not in the least.
SaH: Is this crazy come from behind thing at such a point where a team needs to be up two goals going into the final 15 mintues?
QRG: If the calendar read 2012, then that would be a highly advisable strategy for opponents of the Quakes. However, this season the late game magic is for the most part missing. For every amazing finish like they put together against the LA Galaxy just over a week ago, in 2013 the team has seen three or four matches end uneventfully. Too many goals conceded early in matches have put the Earthquakes behind on a weekly basis. The luck that saw them achieve double-digit comeback results in 2012 has all but deserted them this go around. Perhaps Buck Shaw Stadium provides a little bit of a lift - the Quakes have lost at home only once this season - but the road has not been kind. The Goonies will never say die, but their vital signs often suggest otherwise.
SaH: How will new signing Jordan Stewart fit into a squad that already has strong defensive quality?
QRG: Jordan Stewart is an interesting signing by the Quakes. A journeyman defender in England with some Premier League experience, Stewart at best provides San Jose with depth on the left side of the field. Able to play at both fullback and outside midfielder, Stewart does not possess the speed of a Shea Salinas or Marvin Chavez, but he does understand how to limit turnovers and provide link-up play between the defense and offense. By no means is he guaranteed to step right into the starting lineup - something that by his own assessment won't happen at the earliest for another week or two as he gains match fitness - with established Quakes Salinas and Justin Morrow manning the left flank. Physically he is good, not great, but he was brought to San Jose to provide veteran experience and leadership, and the 31 year old has those qualities in spades over Salinas and Morrow. For a team that has been very vulnerable in the back this year, Stewart could prove very valuable as it tries to stay more organized defensively. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely he sees the field this weekend against Seattle, a team that seems to have little difficulty creating scoring opportunities, at least in anything other than a late game cameo appearance.
SaH: What is different tactically with Watson in charge?
QRG: Interim head coach Mark Watson has preached from day one of his reign that he wants the defense to stay compact and organized and that the offense needs to be more selective in when they push forward. Instead of holding a track meet up each sideline, Watson has asked his wingers to utilize more of the center of the field, especially in conjunction with central midfielders Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin. The Earthquakes bread and butter will continue to be pumping as many passes into the box as possible, but Watson wants to see the points of entry spread across the entire field and not just from wide positions. Certainly Watson is auditioning for the permanent coaching position, so he is not likely to stray too far from what the team was built to do. Whether or not the players respond to the new man in charge, and results start to turn in their favor, remains to be seen.
Significant Losses (Injury, Call up, Suspension)
Five important players will for certain not be available to face the Sounders: Nana Attakora, Mike Fucito (injury); Chris Wondolowski, Clarence Goodson, Marvin Chavez (Gold Cup call up). Forward Steven Lenhart, who has returned to training after suffered a head laceration against the Galaxy, is likely to be available, but that is still a game day decision by the medical staff.
From top to bottom:
Perhaps Steven Lenhart replaces Jahn if he is healthy enough to start. Otherwise, Lenhart makes sense as a second half substitute.