Many years ago, before Sounder at Heart was even an idea, the man behind Prospect Insider regularly tried to convince me to not be merely his community moderator, but to join him as a blogger. It happened, rarely. But then rumors that the Seattle Sounders would make the leap from USL into MLS started. Every day for about four months Jason and I talked, well I talked. He mostly listened. And then he said, "Dave, you shouldn't blog about baseball. You should have a soccer blog. I can host it." In August 2008 the site was born. Jason is not a soccer fan, but he is a Seattle fan and he knows that the Sounders are a big deal. This will be his second or third visit to CenturyLink Field for a game.
Rather than do a Three Questions, partially because the San Jose blog is unable to participate this week, I'm going to share how Jason will be watching the game. We're going to have him focus on just three things. They will be fairly simple. This viewing guide isn't about high pressure, low blocks, inverted wingers and the what-not. I'm keeping it simple.
Clint Dempsey is struggling
Captain America (Lieutenant now?) is having a bad season. It may be part of the reason why Seattle already has four losses in their eight games. His passing is off; his shooting is off; his attitude lacks that verve that served him well for so long.
Watch this game for a few things to see if Clint is back to being Clint M-F-ing Dempsey, the badass. See how he connects with Morris and the rest. Also pay attention to how he goes after the ball when the San Jose Earthquakes have it. Dempsey once had a hunger for the ball that wouldn't let silly things like "opponents" interfere with his plan. Lastly, see how high Clint is on the pitch. Where is he getting his touches? If a majority of them are within 35 yards of goal or so it will be a great day for Deuce.
Jordan Morris is the truth
The young Mercer Islander took a bit to come into his own, but if he scores today he will tie the Seattle Sounders record for most goals by a rookie and the longest scoring streak by an MLS rooke. Jordan was highly touted and the piles of praise, the USMNT calls, the interested from Germany, etc is looking deserved.
In this match look at his off-ball runs? Are his teammates seeing them? When they see them are they putting Morris in on goal in the area, whether they start in the center or right or left doesn't matter. Now that he's more confident, pay particular attention to what he does when he has the ball at his feet with a defender in front of him. Morris was a decent passer and dribbler with the Academy and in college. If he can restore that level of skill versus higher competition it will create problems for the league.
Osvaldo Alonso looks young again
When the Sounders are at their best the midfield controls play as much as the backline prevents goals. There are a ton of ways someone who watches soccer regularly can focus on the defense, but for a rare watcher you can just see Alonso ranging from box to box destroying everything near him.
Most soccer players cannot be judged just be effort, but they way Ozzie is playing this year is about conservation and deployment of energy. With Roldan set behind him, most often, the Cuban can range throughout the field and join the attack. He is playing with joy again.
Seattle can beat San Jose without these three players. They are deep enough, just look at Chad Marshall's goal scoring prowess for evidence of that. The Earthquakes are still a challenge, but if all three of these players are at their 2016 peaks the Sounders will win.