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Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes - Three Questions

Touching on subjects like Wondolowski, the midfield defensive strategy and Attakora. This is Three Questions.

Ezra Shaw

Tonight's 7:30 PM (KING/97.3/99.3) match between the San Jose Earthquakes will be an attempt by the Seattle Sounders to win in Buck Shaw in its final full season hosting soccer. While the 'Quakes dominated 2013 there is little that can be taken away from those results. Dawkins is gone and San Jose is down nearly a full XI. They are also lacking a bit of the Chris Wondolowski magic that they've counted on for the past two seasons.

Joining us for Three Questions is Robert from Quake, Rattle and Goal. There is no return this week due to pressing time concerns. There will be a best guess lineup for the Sounders at the end.

SaH: So Wondo hasn't scored yet despite being in great position on several occasions. Is he falling back to earth or is this the weekend busts out a brace or more?

QR&G: Wondolowski has been getting his chances, but the shots are not finding the back of the net with the same regularity as last season. The missed opportunities seem to be weighing on Wondo too, as he has looked progressively frustrated through the first three matches of the season. The MLS MVP had a similar stretch last summer when his only goals came via the penalty spot, but when he did start scoring again from the run of play, he elevated his total to 27 goals by season's end. Wondolowski will surely turn around his slow start to the season -- maybe against Seattle or maybe against another unfortunate side -- before too long. His scoring conversion rate is what is most important, and he is well below the average he set over the past three seasons. These always seem to have a way of correcting themselves. His teammates will continue to do what they can to provide him the ball, and Wondolowski will surely start to see some of his quality attempts count on the scoreboard.

SaH: Last year Yallop gave away the central third and held firm in the defensive third. Is he still doing that? Will the mainly reserve lineup know how to implement this tactic?

QR&G: The Earthquakes play with a central midfield pairing of Sam Cronin and Rafael Baca that look more toward keeping possession than stretching and attacking opposing defenses. As such, one or both players is often stationed in the defensive half of the field and is acting more to transition the ball from wing to wing. Getting the outside midfielders room to run and for fullbacks the space to make overlapping runs are what Yallop's tactics are designed to do. Cronin and Baca are often measured by how anonymous they are in games, and it is only when looking at the possession statistics that it becomes clear how effective they are for the Quakes. Look for more of the same from the two against the Sounders, as they both take on a more defensive role and leave the offensive to the wingers. Since the reserves that will populate the Quakes line-up will play outside of the central midfield, the team hopes the core values provided by Cronin and Baca will not be lost on Saturday.

SaH: Nana Attakora was once a young up-and-coming centerback with a bright future and then there was a pause in his regular playing time. He is one of the many likely fill-ins this week. How does he look in practices?

QR&G: Attakora arrived in San Jose via a trade from Toronto FC in 2011, and the young centerback was not at full health. He admirably filled in at that time for other missing defenders and finished the season with another good performances that the Quakes looked to resign him. Instead, Attakora elected to play overseas for a year before returning to San Jose this preseason. He is definitely on Canada's radar for international play -- he was held back this week from Canada's friendlies so that he would be available to start for the Earthquakes against the Sounders -- and his solid play in the back has been on display for those that watch training and the Reserve League. Attakora displays good positional awareness, but he is not one to create possession out of the back. He plays defense much like would be expected from a brick wall -- tough to get through and hit the ball against him and it deflects back a long way. He's athletic and well able to partner effectively with Jason Hernandez in the middle of the Earthquakes back four.

Projected Lineup:

Harden, Attakora, Hernandez, Corrales
Salinas, Cronin, Baca, Cato
Wondolowski, Jahn

Projected Seattle Lineup;

Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Gonzalez
Rosales, Alonso, Rose, Zakuani
Ochoa, Estrada

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