Friday, May 21, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Seattle aims to end ‘Quakes’ hot streak at Qwest

Now that the Sounders FC have reversed their winless trend during the month of May, they have set their sights on the top spot in the Western Conference. A victory over the San Jose Earthquakes (and losses by other key teams) could boost Seattle from the bottom of the conference to second place in just one game.

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Seattle (3-3-3, 12 points) will host San Jose at Qwest this Saturday, kickoff is at 12 p.m.. The Earthquakes (4-2-1, 13 points) is off to their best start since rejoining the MLS as an expansion club in 2008. In their last three games, not one of their opponents has had a shot find the net as San Jose won two and tied one including a 4-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.

Defense has been the cornerstone of the Earthquakes resurgence. Last year they allowed a league-high 50 goals during the course of the 2009 season. In their last six games, the ‘Quakes have lost only once and have not allowed a single goal in their last three matches. This spells trouble for Seattle, whose offence has not produced a multi-goal game since they tied 2-2 at Dallas in week 5. To see a multi-goal victory, you’d have to go back to the very first game of the season when Seattle beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0.

The Sounders are still without their largest offensive target, Nate Jaqua, who has been restricted from matches as he recovers from surgery to repair a lower abdominal fascial tear. Michael Fucito is also expected to miss the match due to a contusion on his right knee. Sounders who are listed as questionable for the game are: MF Osvaldo
Alonso (R quadriceps strain); FW Miguel Montano (groin strain); MF Peter Vagenas (R quadriceps strain); MF Brad Evans (L knee contusion).

Forward Pat Noonan (R hamstring strain) is the only injured Seattle player listed as probable for the match. Seattle would do well to have Noonan in Saturday’s lineup, he has the most career goals against San Jose, at three, of any player on the Sounders.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of Seattle’s players are ready to go full force. If Tyrone Marshall gets another yellow card, he will be suspended, and against the Earthquakes new found offensive prowess, losing a body as big as Marshall’s on defense and set pieces could spell the end of the game.

Despite scoring the game winning goal against New York, Head Coach Sigi Schmid gave no indication if the focused 12 minute run by the Columbian forward had earned Freddy Montero his starting spot.

“The effort that he put out at the end of the game was tremendous. That has to come out in practice, as well, on a daily basis, and every time he steps on the field that has to come out,” Schmid said. Montero played 27 games – all as a starter – in 2009; he had also come on as a substitute against Toronto FC on April 25 when Sounders FC played the second of two games in four days on the road.

San Jose has not excluded any players from its lineup due to injury, but has several players listed as questionable: FW Eduardo (R oblique strain); MF Arturo Alvarez (L hamstring strain); MF Joey Gjertsen (L quad strain); PROBABLE: DF Ike Opara (R hamstring strain); DF Steven Beitashour (R hamstring strain).

Historically, the Sounders are favored to win this contest. Of the three games played by the two clubs, Seattle has won two, with for points. Strangely, the one game San Jose won was a 4-0 thrashing reminiscent of the drumming dolled out two weeks ago by L.A. While Seattle recorded four goals in their two victories, San Jose was able to out score the Sounders with five goals and one win.

This game will come down to a battle of wills. How badly do the Earthquakes want to rid themselves of the “Worst in the West” crown and conversely, how badly does Seattle want to turn their season around? Three points and a “W” could put the Sounders in a very comfortable spot after tasting the bottom of the barrel just a few short weeks ago.

Reach Galen Helmgren at