Suddenly riding a modest two-game winless run, the Seattle Sounders will look to get things headed back in the right direction on Thursday against the San Jose Earthquakes. After some promising play in the MLS is Back Tournament, the Earthquakes gone just 0-2-1 since play resumed. Here’s what we’ll be looking for:
Will the Sounders bounce back?
Two bad games hardly qualifies as a trend, but in a condensed season like this bouncing back quickly is as important as ever. That goes double when the opponent is as beatable as the San Jose Earthquakes. Everything about this game suggests the Sounders should be able to right the ship. The Earthquakes have given up nine goals in their last three games, eight of which have come in their two road contests. The Sounders should be reasonably well rested and close to full fitness. With no more games currently on the schedule, the Sounders have no reason to hold anything back. - JO
What do the Sounders do with their midfield?
Gustav Svensson still won’t be available after missing the last two games while in Sweden for UEFA Nations League matches, meaning the Brian Schmetzer has some lineup decisions to make. Most likely that means Jordy Delem will slot into Svensson’s midfield spot, but the more interesting choice might be what he does with Cristian Roldan and João Paulo. Roldan has not produced much offense as a right midfielder, and João Paulo has looked a step slow at times on defense. Swapping them might be just what is needed. - JO
Is now the time to give Arreaga another shot?
Shane O’Neill wasn’t necessarily bad against the Timbers, but if Schmetzer is looking for an excuse to give Xavier Arreaga another shot now seems like a good time. Arreaga’s passing and dribbling ability seem well-suited for an opponent like the Earthquakes, who man mark all over the field. That usually leaves one of the centerbacks unaccounted for and having two players comfortable on the ball essentially gives the Sounders an extra attacker. On paper, at least, this the kind of opponent Arreaga should excel against. - JO
Will the Earthquakes shake the Sounders?
The Earthquakes are an interesting opponent for Seattle. The last few meetings between these two teams haven’t been comfortable for the Sounders. Their most recent matchup ended up being a 0-0 snooze fest in Orlando, but even before that Seattle needed a last-minute winner from Jordan Morris after Arreaga picked up a red card. The last home match between the two actually saw the Sounders go down 2-0 at the half, only to come back and tie the game 2-2.
With that said, the Sounders are a far better team than San Jose, obviously. The Sounders were off their game against Portland and RSL, so they’ll need to be sharp against the Earthquakes. - MK
How will the Sounders fare against the press?
A lot has been made of San Jose’s unique defensive press, which is essentially a man-to-man marking system all over the pitch. Teams need to have crisp, decisive passing to break this type of press. On Sunday against the Timbers, the midfield was moving the ball far too slowly, and that was against a team that sat back.
The Sounders can look to their second half performance last season against San Jose to beat them this year. They pinned back the Earthquakes by making the pitch huge and pinning the wingers back against the backline. With an in form Jordan Morris, this should work well. - MK