Heading the Way
Posted by: Mike Ferris
Saturday's matchup will feature two of the league's most potent offenses as the 2011 league-leading attack meets the 2012 frontrunners.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Seattle Sounders FC and San Jose Earthquakes are no strangers when it comes to scoring goals. Saturday's matchup will feature two of the league's most potent offenses as Seattle's 2011 league-leading attack meets the 2012 frontrunners in the Quakes.
Both sides feature a similar attack with a never-say-die attitude, producing some of the league's most dramatic endings in recent history. Half of Seattle's MLS-best 56 goals last season were scored in the final 45 minutes while 64.4% of San Jose's league-leading 45 goals in 2012 have come after the halftime mark. Not to be outdone, the Rave Green have scored 64.5% of their 31 goals this season in the second-half.
"I think San Jose is a team that keeps coming at you," said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. "They're a team who, definitely, their depth has improved, so they have the ability to bring on subs at the end of games and not detract from the quality of their game."
Similar to Seattle's late drama against the likes of Kansas City last year and Vancouver earlier this season, San Jose has saved some of its best attacking play for late in games. Following Steven Lenhart's 98th minute equalizer – the latest goal scored in club history – against the Chicago Fire on July 28, the Earthquakes lead the league with 16 goals in the final 15 minutes, which includes six tallies in second-half stoppage time, four of which won or tied the game.
And the likenesses don't end there. A potent offense always features effective goalscorers and two of the league's best will face-off on Saturday night. Since 2009, only three players in MLS have scored 40 or more goals. Chris Wondolowski leads the way with 56 goals and D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario is second with 47. Seattle's Fredy Montero closes out the group with 40 tallies.
In fact, the Seattle and San Jose sides feature five of the league's top 20 goalscorers in 2012. Wondolowski (first with 17 goals) and Eddie Johnson (tied-fifth with 10 goals) lead their respective teams. Alan Gordon – who will serve a one-game suspension on Saturday – is eighth in MLS with nine goals, teammate Steven Lenhart is 14th with seven tallies and Montero is tied-18th with six strikes.
The comparisons continue with how the players are scoring. Both teams have a strong aerial presence as the Earthquakes lead MLS with 17 goals from headers while Seattle ranks second with 10 headers.
"Wondolowski, Lenhart and Gordon do a good job of contesting balls and winning balls, so the ball ends up being in front of your goal a lot," said Schmid. "It's not by accident, it's because of their quality and the way they play at the end of games."
Seven of Johnson's 10 goals have been scored from headers, which is the most tops in MLS. All seven times that Johnson has put the ball on frame with his head it has gone in, and much of that is due to the quality service of Mauro Rosales, who has assisted on six of Johnson's seven headers. Johnson has the slight edge over Wondolowski and Gordon, who are second in MLS with six goals from headers this season.
Despite a congested schedule that has resulted in five games in 15 days for Seattle, including an emotional overtime battle at Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup final on Wednesday night, Schmid expects his team's perseverance and workrate to shine through.
"It's a big game. We are going to be competitive and we are coming in to get a result. We want to win the season series with San Jose so we need to come up with a win or a tie on Saturday night. That is our objective."
The key match at the top of the Western Conference table will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday night from Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Tune into KONG 6/16 for live coverage of the match. Due to conflicts with other programming, the game will not be broadcast as usual on 97.3 KIRO FM but can be heard in Spanish on La Gran D 99.3 FM.