If there is one problem beating a team 7-1, it’s that there is not much you can do for an encore.
To be sure, when the Seattle Sounders travel to San Jose today to take on the Earthquakes, they know they’ll be facing a team motivated to avenge one of the most lopsided scorelines in league history. Now on top of that, they’ll be facing a squad that is arguably the hottest in the league over the last five games, with a 4-1-0 record.
That last sentence isn’t one that anyone foresaw after the Earthquakes left Centurylink Field back on Sept. 10. In fact, between a Sept. 2 loss to LAFC and a Sept. 23 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Rapids, the Earthquakes were winless and had a -20 goal differential.
Incredibly, the Earthquakes now sit above the playoff line, and could conceivably finish in the top-four.
“A lot of people wrote them off,” Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “People were saying [San Jose Head Coach Matias] Almeyda [is] done. They took some brutal results. But when you as a coach after a run of results like they had, you’re still able to go ahead, it’s almost more impressive.”
San Jose run an unorthodox, man-marking style designed to confuse opponents who typically don’t have time to fully prepare during a standard MLS season. The Earthquakes have in the past used the tactics effectively against the Sounders, holding them to a 0-0 result earlier this year during the group stage of MLSisBack, and racing out to a 2-0 lead in Seattle during the 2019 season, though the Sounders were able to claw back a draw in that one.
However in the 7-1 victory, the Earthquakes seemingly did not have the personnel to match up with the Sounders’ speed, and Jordan Morris among others repeatedly ran past their markers, setting up repeated easy chances and goals.
“Getting spanked a couple of times is never a good feeling,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “If you are able to climb out of those holes, that is powerful. They have lots of confidence right now.”
The Earthquakes’ personnel has not significantly changed since the beginning of the year, so it’s difficult to say what exactly is to credit (or blame) for the wildly different runs of form. But Frei agreed that it’s a credit to Almeyda that he was able to keep the team from falling apart.
“Almeyda’s has always been a team coach, a coach that players want to play for, that players want to die for.
“It’s going to be a dangerous opponent, we know what they can bring. We cannot be afraid to go back to the tactical approaches that we’ve had in past games against them because I think they will play similarly to the way they’ve always played.”
The Sounders will have the benefit of a full week’s rest, while the Earthquakes played midweek, defeating the LA Galaxy 4-0 in Carson. Even playing a team on short rest, Schmetzer said he doesn’t expect to get anything less than the Earthquakes’ best shot.
“They’ve got at least seven reasons to kick our butts,” Schmetzer said.