Win the midfield and win the game
Round three of the great Earthquakes-Sounders 2012 rivalry continues tonight in San Jose at Buck Shaw Stadium, and the home side looks primed to earn the victory. Still riding high at the top of the MLS Western Conference standings as the calendar turns to August, the Earthquakes will benefit from over a week of rest while the Sounders come to San Jose fresh off an emotional midweek loss to Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup Final.
Their first meeting of the season in Seattle ended 1-0 in favor of the Quakes as a controversial penalty call in favor of Steven Lenhart saw the visitors claim the points. A hard-fought U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match late in June saw the table’s turned on San Jose, as the Sounders grinded out a tough 1-0 win at Kezar Stadium to advance in the tournament. Post-game antics from both sides at that match linger in the memories of all those involved and add to the hype of tonight’s match.
Two teams that due to recent success are defining a true on-field rivalry, the Quakes and Sounders will look to solidify their postseason credentials tonight at The Buck.
San Jose Earthquakes will win because… they are undefeated at Buck Shaw this season and show know signs that that record is in jeopardy. With the home side fans screaming their support, and with a familiarity of the field surface and conditions, the Earthquakes play with a confidence at home that has resulted in 22 goals scored and a 13 goal differential in amassing a 6-0-3 record at The Buck. The three draws have all come courtesy of late game equalizers — a hallmark of the team this season that always play to the final whistle. More recently, it was Steven Lenhart scoring in the eighth minute of stoppage time against the Chicago Fire on Steven Lenhart Wig Night to keep the Buck Shaw unbeaten streak alive.
A 13 goal differential can come easy when the offense is on fire, but a solid defense also is important, and the Earthquakes have strung together a series of games with the same starting back four of Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, and Justin Morrow keeping opponents at bay. Add in veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch playing at as high a level as ever, and it was no surprise that four of the six Earthquakes selections to the MLS All-Star game active and inactive rosters come from the defensive side of the ball. They will have their hands full with a Seattle side that, along with the Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City, has avoided conceding more goals then they have scored on the road in 2012.
Keep reading after the jump for why the Quakes will lose and why you shouldn't miss this match:
San Jose Earthquakes will lose because… they have not played a competitive game in two weeks and may not be able to keep pace with an in-form Seattle side. Sure, the Sounders may have played 120 minutes of soccer in Wednesday’s USOC final, but they are professionals and that is what is expected of them. The chance exists that Seattle could suffer a postgame hangover from their experience in Kansas City, but that would be very unlike head coach Sigi Schmid’s charges.
While Wondolowski continues to lead the race for the MLS Golden Boot, Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has stormed to a double digit tally with a run of good summer form. Now at 10 goals for the season, he has shown a great ability to get on the end of passes into the area, especially with his head. Defenders Bernardez and Hernandez will definitely have their hands full with Johnson. Add in the flair for the dramatic that forward partner Fredy Montero has against the Earthquakes — three game winning goals and one assist — and Seattle possesses the tools to get the job done offensively.
You don’t want to miss this match because… Both meetings so far this season between the two sides have been anything but boring. Controversy seems to reign supreme, but so does some excellent soccer from both sides. The Earthquakes have built their lead atop the Western Conference by getting the results they need against conference foes, and a chance to extend their advantage over the Sounders with a win tonight at The Buck is too important to pass up. No Alan Gordon heroics will be on view tonight — he is serving the first game of a two game suspension — but Lenhart will be there to make a mark. That the Earthquakes leave it late seems an inevitability, and you won’t want to miss it.