The San Jose Earthquakes (2-2-0) host the defending MLS Cup champs Seattle Sounders (1-1-2) tonight at Avaya Stadium. While the Quakes have traditionally dominated their northern rivals (3-1-3 overall MLS record), tonight may be a different story.
Seattle comes to town fully stocked with offense. U.S. Men’s National Team members Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris will be available, as well as Uruguayan National Team midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and former Fire/Impact midfielder Harry Shipp. On the defensive side, expect Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan to get the start as the controlling midfielders, with Chad Marshall and Panamanian National Team member Roman Torres anchoring the Seattle back-line.
The Quakes will be without Victor Bernardez, who was sent off last Saturday in New York. Instead, the Quakes will have to rely on Flo Jungwirth and probably Andres Imperiale at the center-back positions. While most coaches are willing to change out the ineffective players, Dom rarely changes his lineups. He will probably think replacing Muma with Imperiale is change enough, and keep his traditional lineup: Bingham in goal, Lima, Imperiale, Jungwirth, and Francis on the backline, Godoy and Fatai as the defensive mids, Thompson and Dawkins as the wingers, with Wondo and Urena up top. If Kinnear were to make a change, I would expect Dawkins or Thompson to be on the bench in favor of Hyka.
The first rule of coaching: don’t mess with what works. With the arrival of Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, Seattle went away from their traditional/unsuccessful/predictable 4-3-3 used by Sigi Schmid and into a 4-2-3-1, which propelled the Sounders into the the playoffs and helped clinch their first championship. Given the success Quakes’ opponents have had running the 4-3-3, some might expect Seattle to revert back to a 4-3-3, but until Seattle is down (which probably won’t happen), don’t expect a 4-3-3.
Head Coach Dom Kinnear, one of the longest/oldest coaches in MLS, seems to content with the opposite: don’t mess with what’s not working. Expect the traditional/unsuccessful/predictable 4-4-2 with the usual suspects.
The defensive outlook doesn’t bode well for San Jose, a team missing two regular center-backs, a huge hole at left-back, and a left-wing in Dawkins that doesn’t play defense. They will face a potent Sounders attack with Dempsey, Morris, Shipp, and Lodeiro. Expect Seattle to score at least two goals with a majority of the attack on the right side. Then there’s Dom’s predictability, which should play right into Schmetzer’s hands. If Dom runs the flat 4-4-2 with Dawkins, San Jose probably will not produce more than one goal, resulting in a 2-1 final. If Dawkins doesn’t play in favor of other mids such as Cato, Salinas, or Hyka, or Dom plays a different formation, San Jose might muster a few goals, resulting in a 2-2 final. Either way, with a crippled defense and lackluster offense, I doubt the Quakes hold serve at home.