The big news with this match is the opening of Levi's Stadium. Robert over at CenterLineSoccer took a few moments away from covering the opening of the stadium to answer Four Questions. Check the Gallery there or for a simple 49ers angled preview read SaH reader Alex Carson's post there. There is no reverse.
SaH: San Jose played without Lenhart and Gordon recently. It was a more "beautiful" game. Is that a system that can win regularly?
CLS: The Earthquakes brass thinks so. From team president Dave Kaval to general manager John Doyle, to head coach Mark Watson, the message the past two weeks is that the team wants to shift its tactical approach to one that emphasizes possession in the midfield and speed on the wings. No more long ball is the mantra in San Jose these days, and the absence of the Bash Brothers in the Starting XI is a good indication of that shift away from bruise-ball. Will it work? So far the results are positive -- a 5-1 shellacking of the Chicago Fire and a scoreless draw with Atletico Madrid -- but the Sounders will prove a much sterner test than previous opponents. Kaval has promised "attractive soccer" to Earthquakes fans, but it will be up to Watson and the players to deliver this on a regular basis AND earn the necessary results to make the Quakes a playoff contender.
SaH: Are the Quakes about to abandon this season and build for 2015?
CLS: Not at all, according to Watson. He repeatedly has referred to the run the Earthquakes made to close out last season, a second half of the season that lifted the Quakes into a tie for fifth place in the West. Only a tiebreaker kept the team out of the playoffs in 2013. The players, to a man, have echoed the sentiments of their coach, emphatically stating that there is plenty of season to go to lift themselves out of the Western Conference basement. Is it possible? Absolutely! Is is probable? It would take an even better performance than last season, a run of results where the team averages more than 2 points per game, for it to have any chance of happening. Those are long-shot odds in anyone's book.
SaH: Who is Matias Perez Garcia and how soon will he be on the squad?
CLS: MPG, or "High Octane" as we are calling him at Center Line Soccer, is a 29-year old Argentine midfielder that has been the number one target of the Earthquakes since last year. He has most recently played for CA Tigre in Argentina's Primera Division, where he was the undisputed leader of the team. A naturally gifted left-footed little dynamo, he stands only 5'5" tall, Perez Garcia prefers to play on the right side of the field and cut into the center. He is not afraid to take players on, and for his size is extremely resilient. The tactical setup at Tigre was very similar to what the Earthquakes are shifting to, so the transition time to get him into the team should be minimal. Will be play this weekend? Doubtful, as his International Transfer Certificate has been delayed due in part to the death of longtime Argentina FA president Julio Grondona and the subsequent mourning period by those in the agency.
SaH: Is the Levi's Stadium thing going to increase awareness of the soccer juggernaut in the Bay Area?
CLS: That is the idea, especially now that the Earthquakes have agreed to a five-year dealto play an annual MLS regular season game at the gleaming new facility. At $1.3 billion in costs, the stadium is a jewel to behold, and the Quakes hope that a regular presence there will help the club connect to more casual, event-driven fans. The trade-off, of course, is that the team will play one less game a year in its new stadium, scheduled to open in 2015. Regular season ticket holders and supporters are not happy with the new deal at Levi's Stadium, but for Kaval, the bigger picture is getting the organization more exposure in a crowded Bay Area sporting market.
Significant Absences: Clarence Goodson (toe), Steven Lenhart (knee), Alan Gordon (coach's doghouse).
Projected Lineup: Eleven guys wearing throwback red jerseys, a perfect complement to the nearly 70,000 red seats at Levi's Stadium.