MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (7-6-3, 24 points, 7th, MLS West) at San Jose Earthquakes (5-9-6, 21 points, 8th, MLS West). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium. MEETING: 14th (series tied 6-6-1, all competitions; San Jose leads 6-5-1 in MLS play). TV: KING. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Embarrassed in their last outing at Vancouver (lost 2-0), their first loss to the Whitecaps, the Sounders have a go Saturday at San Jose against an Earthquakes team Seattle wiped out 4-0 two months ago. The match marks the halfway point of the 34-game season. A win will establish a franchise record for most points through the first half of a season.
But the Sounders have not been able to get all best players together, for multiple reasons, and partly as a result have lost four of the past seven. They are seventh in the West, one spot ahead of San Jose, but part of that is a function of having played the fewest games, 16, in MLS.
The Earthquakes have their own problems. The won the Supporters Shield in 2012 but are 5-9-6 (21 points), including 1-8-2 on the road, and coming off consecutive losses to the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution.
The Earthquakes have been unable to prevent goals. San Jose has allowed 32, tied for the most in MLS (Chivas USA). Its minus-12 goal differential is 17th in MLS.
“They won a lot of games last year with late results, and sometimes things don’t bounce for you, but they’re still a quality team,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. “It’s just been for them an awkward year.”
With a win at San Jose, Seattle would be the third team this season to win four road games. On the other hand, the Sounders have been blanked three times in their past four road matches.
They catch a break Saturday with San Jose striker and defending MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski, who leads the series with six goals, 38 shots, and 17 shots on goal, scheduled to miss the match. He is playing for the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, in which he scored a hat trick in the first half of a 6-1 win over Belize in Portland.
The Sounders have no players on the U.S. team in Confed play, part of a commitment from U.S. team coach Jurgen Klinsmann to avoid burdening MLS teams by taking players off the same team for World Cup qualifiers as well as the Confed tourney. Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans played in the World Cup qualifiers, but will be on hand Saturday for Seattle.
However, Mario Martinez unexpectedly was called to Confed play by his native Honduras, and his return is an object of dispute between the Sounders and the national coach.
San Jose’s Shea Salinas, with four assists in the series, has five this season and posted his best match June 29 with a goal and two assists against the LA Galaxy.
Midfielder Sam Cronin has started 20 games, T1 in MLS with Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch, and has two goals and three assists. In addition to Busch, the defense is led by 2012 Defender of the Year finalist Victor Bernardez, who was also a finalist for 2012 Newcomer of the Year.
Best news for Seattle Saturday aside from Wondolowski’s absence is that midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is set to return to full-time duty, although he is not listed among the probable starters. Alonso has missed the last four matches nursing, among other ills, a groin injury.
“It was frustrating to be out almost six weeks,” Alonso told soundersfc.com. “But I’m ready to go Saturday. I’ll step on the field to give the best for my team.”
“Ozzie’s a good player,” said head coach Sigi Schmid. “Anytime you can get a good player back into the fold, that helps us. Having him available in midfield makes a big difference.”
Also returning is DeAndre Yedlin, who had been out with a shoulder injury. But forward Obafemi Martins was kicked in the calf against Vancouver and won’t play. Shalrie Joseph, also nursing a sore calf, is doubtful.
The Sounders this week added goalkeeper Andrew Weber after backup Marcus Hahnemann developed a hamstring problem. Weber, who played in Seattle last year and started five matches, is on loan from USL Pro team Phoenix FC.
Midfielder Andy Rose also has a hamstring issue, and fellow midfielder Alex Caskey may have to undergo surgery for an ankle problem.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — Leo Gonzalez, Djimi Traore, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Midfielders — Servando Carrasco, Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph, Brad Evans. Forwards — Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle.
EARTHQUAKES PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Jon Busch. Defenders — Steven Beitashour, Brad Ring, Jason Hernandez, Dan Gargan. Midfielders — Walter Martinez, Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Shea Salinas. Forwards — Adam Jahn, Alan Gordon.
INJURIES: Seattle — F Obafemi Martins (calf), out; GK Josh Ford, out; Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery), out; GK Marcus Hahnemann (hamstring), out; MF Andy Rose (hamstring, out); Alex Caskey (ankle), out; Shalrie Joseph (calf), game-time decision. San Jose — Ty Harden, Peter McGlynn, out. SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — None; San Jose — None. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; San Jose — Nana Attakora, Marvin Chavez, Clarence Goodson, Chris Wondolowski.
SERIES: Dates to April 25, 2009, when the Sounders scored a 2-0 home win on goals by Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans. The Earthquakes took the series lead last year with three victories, dropping Seattle to 4-5-1 in the all-time rivalry. San Jose holds a 15-11 goal advantage, with Chris Wondolowski leading all scorers with six goals. In the March 23 match, Wondolowski scored the lone goal in the first minute of stoppage time in the first half, giving San Jose a 1-0 victory. On May 23, the Sounders retaliated with a 4-0 win on a pair of goals by Lamar Neagle and one each by Mauro Rosales an Obafemi Martins.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
- REGULAR-SEASON SUMMARY (MLS): Overall: 7-6-3. Last 5: W-W-L-W-L. Home: 4-1-2. Road: 3-5-1. Vs. East: 2-1-1. Vs. West: 5-5-2. March: 0-3-1; April: 1-0-1; May: 3-1-1; June: 2-1-0; July: 1-1-0; August: 0-0-0; September: 0-0-0; October: 0-0-0. Goals For: 21. Goals Against: 19. Differential: +2.
- MLS TEAM RANKS: Goals: 21 (T12). Goals Scored Avg.: 1.31 (10th). Goals Allowed Per Match: 1.19 (8th). Shots: 171 (19th). Shots On Goal: 60 (17th). Fouls Committed: 199 (16th). Fouls Suffered: 193 (18th). Yellow Card Cautions: 20 (T17).
- 5-0-2 when leading at the half, 1-0-1 when tied at the half, 1-6-0 when trailing at the half.
- 7-0-2 when scoring first, 0-6-0 when conceding first.
- Sounders play three more MLS regular-season matches in July, marking the second time this season that the club will play five league contests in one calendar month. Seattle will average five MLS games per month through October.
- Obafemi Martins is second in MLS with an average of 0.74 goals per 90 minutes.
- Sounders have averaged 1.5 points per match through the opening 16 games. Since 2009, just one team (Columbus Crew, 2012) has missed the playoffs after averaging at least 1.5 points per game during the regular season.
- All seven Sounders victories have come when they score first. Seattle’s unbeaten streak of 32-0-8 when scoring first is the longest active streak and second-longest in league history (New York, 58 games).
- Center back Djimi Traore is tied with Michael Gspurning for the team lead with 1,710 minutes played, and is one of two field players (Mauro Rosales) to have appeared in 19 of 20 games across all competitions. In league play, Traore has started more games (15) and logged more minutes (1,350) than any field player, and his 15 consecutive starts is a team-high.
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Gspurning 16, Traore 15, Gonzalez 14|
|Goals||Martins 6, Johnson, Neagle, 4 each|
|Assists||Rosales, Neagle, Evans, all 3|
|Shots||Johnson 27, Evans, Neagle, Martins, all 16|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 14, Martins 10, Neagle 8|
|Fouls Caused||Neagle 21, Alonso 18, Gonzalez, Yedlin 16|
|Fouls Suffered||Johnson 21, Rosales 20, Carrasco, Traore 14|
|Offsides||Johnson 22, Neagle 6, Evans 5|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 47, Martinez 17|
|Cautions||Johnson 4, 4 tied with 2|
|Ejections||Neagle, Yedlin, Joseph, Martins, Hahnemann|
SAN JOSE NOTES: San Jose interim head coach Mark Watson played for the Seattle Sounders in 1997, making 24 appearances. He was named to the A-League First Team. The Canadian veteran played nearly two decades of pro soccer in four different countries, in addition to making 78 appearances for the Canadian National Team . . . The Earthquakes have eight road losses, most in MLS . . . Goalie Jon Busch had seven saves last week against New England, one shy of his season’s best.
COMING UP: Sounders return to CenturyLink Field July 20 to host the Colorado Rapids and then host Chivas USA July 28.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(7-6-3, 24 points, MLS; 1-1-0 CCL; 0-1-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||L||1-0||0-2-1|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||L||4-0||4-4-3|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING||—||—||—|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||—||—||—|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup