Who You’ll Watch
To get here, the Sounders defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the fourth round a few weeks ago, while the Earthquakes knocked off the San Francisco Deltas with two quick goals within the first six minutes of the match.
This will be the third time since 2012 the Sounders and San Jose have faced off in the Open Cup. The last time was in 2014, when the Sounders won in a penalty shootout on the way to their fourth Open Cup trophy.
In 2012, it was the “Battle of Kezar”, seen via a mixture of question marks and cell phone streams, that the Sounders somehow were able to see through and pull out a 1-0 victory.
In their last five MLS games, San Jose have gone W-L-L-D-W, while the Sounders have vacillated through a L-W-L-D-D set of results.
Injuries & Callups
San Jose: the Quakes are missing a bevy of players for the season. Regular contributors Florian Jungwrith (ankle injury) and Fatai Alashe (knee injury) are the most recent injury list additions, but how severe their injuries are is anyone’s guess.
Seattle: Clint Dempsey is still out. Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan will be missing for Gold Cup duty, and probably Jordy Delem and Oniel Fisher. Seyi Adekoya continues to struggle with an ankle injury and likely isn’t available. As we learned from Julie Stewart-Binks this past weekend, Joevin Jones has been dealing with tendonitis - there’s very little chance he sees the field.
What To Watch
In what is always a difficult tournament to scout due to lineup rotation, San Jose has made it as difficult as possible to predict what they’ll do. Their breakup from Dom Kinnear came at a weird time (late morning) on a weird day (Sunday) at a weird spot (right after a home win). Their appointment of Chris Leitch as head coach, a man without any professional coaching experience at all, head or otherwise, is an equally odd move.
While there’s next to nothing to draw from regarding how Leitch will ultimately line the Quakes up, there’s a couple likely conclusions we can draw.
First, there’s likely little change he’ll introduce structurally, and only marginal change to tactics - there simply isn’t enough time to implement anything wildly different. That’s a little bit of a problem for a team that is struggling to score, and struggling to prevent goals being scored.
Second, he almost certainly will want to make a good first impression, and that probably means an unusually strong lineup (for a round of 16 Open Cup matchup). With an MLS matchup on Saturday - and it being the Cali Classico, at that - it almost certainly won’t be a full first team lineup. On a team that has struggled to score without him (as noted above he leads the team in goals and assists), Wondolowski will almost certainly be sitting. Young Nick Lima, receiver of a red card this past weekend, will likely play, as will Tommy Thompson - ever a threat, ever promising, still only threatening to break out. Based on a number of factors, San Jose likely trots out a 4-4-2/4-5-1 similar to what they’ve been using for most of the year.
Seattle, for their part, is likely to stick to a similar mixture of S2 and veteran players they’ve used previously. With the ongoing roster issues the team is facing, the decent cohesion this has produced previously, and the absurd temperatures seen Sunday in Portland, there’s little incentive to push out the starters, even with the Gold Cup break upcoming.
We’ll likely see a similar 4-5-1 lineup to the match two weeks prior, and that lineup should be sufficient to make a contest out of it, but it wasn’t exactly prolific at getting shots off (just 10 all match) or in passing accuracy (just 71%). There are rumors Vic Mansaray is coming back from his loan to Cincinnati, but he’ll be ineligible to play as he’s cup-tied to them. Against a Portland B+ team there was Aaron Kovar and not much else, and that’s probably about what we’ll see this time around.
So what's it going to take to win? A lot more cohesion, a lot more accuracy, and a moment or two of brilliance. A match against a group of players hoping to prove themselves to a new coach against a group of players who have spent little time practicing together is not going to be pretty, but - as we were reminded on Sunday - it only takes a couple moments of brilliance to swing a match.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Wednesday, June 28 7:30 PM
Venue: Avaya Stadium
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)
Cell phone video: TBD