Both the Seattle Sounders FC and the San Jose Earthquakes sit on six points in the early season, though the Bay Area side does have a loss on their record. Where Seattle's offense is powered by "newcomer" David Estrada, the offense for the 'Quakes is clearly one Chris Wondolowski. Sigi Schmid's side will have to stop that offensive power house. As usual Frank Yallop's team had high turnover, he also tweaked how the defense will play the ball.
Saturday's 7PM Pacific match will be on KONG 6/16 in English and KOMO2 in Spanish. The radio call is on KIRO 97.3 in English and La Gran D 99.3 FM in Spanish. Referee Mark Kadlecik will be calling his 17th MLS game. Exploring the match-up through three questions is Robert from Quake, Rattle and Goal. Tickets are still available though TiqIQ.
SaH: Wondo is on man on fire again. He's particularly potent within the 6 yard box and yet opponents can't keep him out of it. Why not?
QR&G: That same question was posed to Earthquakes defender Steven Beitashour earlier this week, and the third-year right back could only give the knowing smile of one who must face Wondolowski nearly everyday in practice. Beita's expression finally broke when he gave the non-answer that Wondo just pops up where he needs to be. If as a defender you turn to survey the field, you give Wondolowski all the time he needs to slip into space and get into the area unmarked. This season even more than the last two - where Wondo lead or tied MLS in goals scored - the attention opposing defenders need to give to the improved Quakes' winger duo of Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez help add to those instances of time Wondolowski can make his move. And when you have the clinical finishing ability of the Earthquakes team MVP, that makes the difference in finishing your scoring opportunities.
SaH: San Jose, in two of their three games, put up some soft defensive numbers (duels, passing advantage, possession). Is this due to another year of high turnover or just small sample size?
QR&G: Head coach Frank Yallop has made it very clear since the preseason began that his defensive philosophy for 2012 was going to be focused on one particular result - minimizing the opponents' shots on goal. Instead of trying to press the ball from the center line, Earthquakes defenders were to anticipate the build-up in the attacking third from the other team, and position themselves accordingly to block passing and shooting lanes near the area. On the defensive flanks, that strategy calls for the outside backs to disrupt crosses into the box by trying to keep the ball pinned closer to the touchline. In the center, Yallop called for his defensive midfielder - Jean-Marc Alexandre during the preseason and Sam Cronin to open the season - to impede possession of the ball ahead of the center back duo of Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez. And if the ball was pressed toward the top of the area, the big Honduran Bernardez was tasked with stepping into the play to make the necessary tackle. While the statistics don't seem to tip in favor of the Earthquakes, hovering near the low mark in MLS for scoring opportunities and shots on goal conceded is evidence that the strategy is working.
SaH: Ike Opara didn't look great in the Olympic Qualifying tournament. What's his status for this weekend and prospects for the season?
QR&G: Opara is healthy and has been integrated into the team as a reserve center back so far in 2012. Because he was expected to miss considerable time this season due to his commitment to the U.S. Men's National Team U23s, coach Yallop gave considerable first team time to third-year defender Justin Morrow. Last year's center back starter Jason Hernandez is also at full strength and available to come off the bench for the Earthquakes. Opara, who himself expects to be a starter on the Quakes, still needs to show more consistency and confidence on the backline to convince Yallop he is ready to start alongside Big Vic. With Hernandez healthy and coming off a successful spell as captain of the Earthquakes Reserves in their 1-0 victory over the Timbers Reserves on Tuesday, Opara is unlikely to make the match day 18 against the Sounders.No Reverse this week. I promise it returns for D.C. United.