Four games into the 2017 season and the Seattle Sounders currently sit in sixth place in the West with five points. Considerably better than their 2016 start, but a little short of the expectations that come with winning the MLS Cup last season. It doesn’t help that the Sounders head to San Jose, a place in which they’ve had a bit of trouble in recent years and have only won once in their history (way back in 2010). But both teams have experienced some pretty big changes within the last year or so, and Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said that it’s time for his team to shake up their history in San Jose.
Schmetzer called the San Jose Earthquakes “a bit of our bogey team,” since the Sounders joined MLS, but he also noted that “rosters change, at some point fortunes change, you can’t be a problem team all the time.” He pointed out the move from the Earthquakes’ “smaller” Buck Shaw Stadium to their current home of Avaya as a changing factor in this matchup, as well as the roster turnover that San Jose has had as of late. In MLS, Schmetzer said, “the league is too full of parity” to let things get too stale. “Their whole team is a good team, it’s a little bit of a revamp, it feels different.”
The Earthquakes are in marginally better form than Seattle in 2017, with only a point giving them the edge into 4th place at this point. They’ve won both home games thus far, and will be confident in their ability to keep that record going. Schmetzer identified the pressing game that Dominic Kinnear is known to use especially at home, as well as their strength on set pieces—especially via long throw-ins from their young right back, Nick Lima. It’s also not a surprise that he pinpointed Chris Wondolowski as a constant threat, both on set pieces and from open play.
San Jose will also be without center back Victor Bernardez, who is suspended for this match after seeing red against NYCFC last weekend. Schmetzer said Bernardez “is certainly a loss for [San Jose],” but his likely replacement Andres Imperiale is “decent” and has a wealth of professional experience.
Even though the Earthquakes have gone through some changes and will be missing one of their best players, it doesn’t really change how the Sounders prepare for this match. “We expect, as always, to go through what we do, watch them on film, try and plan all our set pieces, their set pieces, do all of that preparation.” Rather than freak out about unexpected lineup changes or particularly thorny issues with team selection, Schmetzer said that he and his staff simply “make adjustments” and move on.
Not much about the Sounders’ game plan changes, and Schmetzer wants to continue working on the areas they have been all season. “We’ve been working a lot with playing it out of the back, making sure we’re not caught by surprise if we find ourselves under a little bit of pressure, okay let’s find that next pass and play it.” Typical of the Sounders’ away plans, Schmetzer said that his team will be focusing on set pieces, as well as trying to “play in their half of the field as much as we can.”
The Sounders will probably travel with a nearly full strength side, but it’s always possible that some last-minute changes could happen—like with Chad Marshall’s late removal due to illness against Atlanta. The backline has changed so much, though, and Schmetzer is confident that he has “plenty of choices along the back line.”
It is worth noting that there is no real update on Brad Evans, who will not be available for selection again this weekend. Schmetzer said he’s still working through the protocol of his calf injury at the moment. Evans has been seen training with the team the past couple weeks, but Schmetzer said that he’s still working with medical staff to get him back to full health.