What You’ll Watch
The Seattle Sounders hit the road for this mid-week clash at Avaya Stadium to take on the San Jose Earthquakes. This is the first of two meetings this season between the two clubs and the only one to be played in San Jose. Last time these two played, the Sounders won 3-0 in Seattle. Cristian Roldan scored two goals in two minutes and Kelvin Leerdam scored his first goal as a Sounder.
If you think the Sounders have had a bad season, just be glad you aren’t Earthquakes fans. San Jose is currently at the bottom of the table in the West with a record of 2-11-6 (12 points in 19 games played; 0.63 ppg) and the Sounders still remain in 10th place with a record of 5-9-5 (20 points in 19 games played; 1.05 ppg). Last time out, the Sounders defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on a brace from Nicolas Lodeiro. San Jose had the weekend off in league play but did play a game against Manchester United on Sunday that they lost 3-1.
This will be the 24th all-time meeting between the two. Seattle is just 8-10-5 in league play with 27 goals scored and 25 conceded against the Quakes. Seattle is just 1-5-4 on the road with seven goals scored and 14 conceded. If there ever was a time to reverse that trend, it will be Wednesday night.
A Look at the Enemy
Last Five: D-D-D-L-L with seven goals scored and ten conceded
Leading Goal Scorer: Danny Hoesen, 10
Assist Leader: Valeri Qazaishvili & Hoesen, four
Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty
Out: Kevin Partida (knee injury) and Fatai Alashe (groin)
Suspensions: Anibal Godoy (Yellow card accumulation)
International Duty: N/A
Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Handwalla Bwana (right midfoot sprain)
Questionable: Victor Rodriguez (right hamstring strain)
International Duty: N/A
REFEREE: Kevin Stott
AR1: Mike Kampmeinert
AR2: Andrew Bigelow
4th: Hilario Grajeda
VAR: Alex Chilowicz
What to Watch
Honestly, the best answers to this section for a mid-week match in San Jose are:
- Not the fans. Seriously not the fans. Anything but the fans.
- The drama between coach and players, players and players, and players and coach.
- Barring that, the game will be on.
San Jose’s System
Much as it pains me to say this of a fellow Swede, head coach Mikael Stahre hasn’t been the savior they’d hoped for. He very well may be, in fact, the worst coach in the league. He’s also saddled with something that most of us would not say could reasonably be called a wholly constructed roster. There’s theoretically talent enough that you can’t really excuse away having just two wins, but watching the silly, simple errors pile up through a match leaves you wondering if any of it is more than theoretical. Passing is sloppy, spacing is sloppy, and situational recognition from anyone not named Chris Wondolowski or Magnus Eriksson is pretty well non-existent.
There doesn’t really seem to be any honest-to-god functional structure or connection to anything.
Most frequently a four-man back line is used that tends to feature a centerback playing fullback. A centerback is often deployed as a CDM, paired with Anibal Godoy, who is a CDM through and through and not at all an aggressive distributor. The defensive setup seems to attempt to run as a bucket 4-4-2, but in function all it does is invite the attacking team deeper, pull the wings further back, and cut off the support to any potential attack. Somehow, defenders still find themselves chasing attackers backwards; there seems to be some sort of directive to play a high defensive line, but there’s insufficient up-field pressure to support this. There also may be an attempt to play zonal defense — it’s really hard to tell -- but nobody seems to understand handing players off if that’s the case, and not everyone is doing it. They’re particularly bad at dealing with through balls, and I think there might be a new Sounder player who enjoys running onto those.
Transition is a thing that happens, I guess, in the sense that yes, they do take the ball the other way. Insofar as it happens, the outside back on the corresponding side will push up-field hard to provide width. The wings are tasked with occupying the channels, but seem to fall back so far in defense that by the time they sprint into the attacking third the opportunity is done and the ball is going back the other way. It’s fair to say that their transition game is not great and regularly sets them up for failure.
As a result, the offensive play is easily pinned to one side or the other. Both forwards are pulled wide to provide sufficient interplay to try to connect, or are given long balls from Eriksson and Quazaishvili over the top from deeper to run onto. Hoesen has the ability to do so, but there’s so very rarely a time when he’s able to do so with less than two defenders hounding him. One of the most baffling stats of the league is that San Jose somehow draws the most fouls per game at home, and by a significant margin (16.4, a full three fouls more than second place). They currently sit 17th in the league in xGF according to American Soccer Analysis (26.5), a number they’ve slightly exceeded on the year.
- Clip the wings - Eriksson and Quazaishvili are the chance creators, creating 1.7 and 2.3 key passes per match (for reference, Nicolas Lodeiro creates 3.2/match and Victor Rodriguez creates 1.2/match). Force them to eat the ball or recycle it and they’re reduced to low chance tries.
- Shake the fault lines - It’s tough to overstate how badly the Earthquakes handle through balls up the channel lines. This would be a particularly good match to completely unleash the Green Lantern on MLS.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Wednesday, June 25 @ 7:30 PM
Location: Avaya Stadium — San Jose, CA
Streaming: YouTube TV
Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360AM (Spanish)