The Sounders first road test of the year comes against San Jose

The Sounders first road test of the year comes against San Jose

The Supporter's Shield winners will be a tricky test for the Sounders in their first match away from CenturyLink Field in 2013.

Sounders FC @ San Jose Earthquakes
March 23, 7:30 pm PT, Buck Shaw Stadium
TV/Radio: KING 5/KIRO radio 97.3
San Jose’s Record: The Earthquakes are 1-1-1 (4 points) after a comeback draw on the road against the Columbus Crew last week.

The San Jose Earthquakes and Sounders FC both had success in the 2012 season, but did so in very different ways.

The Sounders reached the US Open Cup championship match and the Western Conference Championship series while going unbeaten in four CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches and finished the regular season third in the Western Conference.

San Jose ran away with the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record, though they faded late in the season and bowed out in the Western Conference Semifinals. They also fell in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup in a 1-0 defeat to the Sounders.

Now, those same two teams clash at Buck Shaw Stadium in San Jose, but the teams that take the field will not much resemble the ones that met in four heated battles last year. The Sounders have three players away on international duty and three more key players expected out because of injury. Similarly, the Earthquakes have two players playing in World Cup qualifiers, but a slew of players out with injuries, including four starters.

While the personnel may be different, Sounders FC head coach knows what to expect from Frank Yallop’s Earthquakes when they meet on Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium.

“They’re a hard-working team. They’re a team that battles and competes for each other,” Schmid said. “They’re going to be missing a couple of guys in the back, as well, but they’re a team that just fights.”

Among those out of action are midfielder Marvin Chavez, who had 13 assists to lead the team, and forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, who combined for 23 goals last year. Also out are All-Star right back Steven Beitashour to injury and defenders Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez to national team duty.

That puts a lot of pressure onto players who haven’t seen as much MLS action.

While the Sounders have players out too, they have more experienced players stepping into those roles.

With international competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League and the domestic US Open Cup, the Sounders FC has gained a lot of experience throughout their roster, playing 22 players in at least at matches in 2012. On a team that didn’t suffer through many injuries and didn’t have the buildup of games in outside competitions, San Jose had just 16 players play 15 or more matches in 2012.

They will rely heavily on the veteran presence of forward Chris Wondolowski.

The 2012 MLS MVP and top scorer in the league over the last three seasons, Wondolowski has one goal through three games for San Jose and takes on a greater offensive burden in the absence of his big strike partners.

“Without Lenhart and without Gordon it takes a bit of muscular presence away from the front line, but they’re still a team that likes to compete,” Schmid said. “It makes it a little bit harder for Wondo because he has to be a little bit more of a target as well as just being the guy who runs off of the target. When he has one of those two guys out there, it makes his game a little bit easier because they focus so much attention on themselves because of their style of play … without that, I think the opponent’s attention is a little more directed towards him.”

The match will kickoff from Buck Shaw Stadium at 7:30 pm PT, with television coverage on KING-5 and the radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3, and a live blog on SoundersFC.com.

Topics: