The Sounders FC plays their first regular season road match of 2013 on Saturday at 7:30 pm PT against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
With so many players away with injuries and international duty, here are some key matchups among players expected to be available for the two sides.
Chris Wondolowski vs. Sounders defense
Normally a forward matchup would feature the center backs or perhaps the goalkeeper. However, with the MLS all-time single-season scoring leader Wondolowski it takes a concerted defensive effort from the entire team. In 2012 he had 27 goals to lead MLS and match the all-time record by Roy Lassiter, following up seasons of 16 goals in 2011 and 18 goals in 2010. He scores them from all angles, utilizing his off-the-ball movement and tireless work rate to exploit opposing defenses. The Sounders will have to be alert and attentive on all sides to contain him.
Steve Zakuani vs. Ty Harden
Last year, the Earthquakes boasted All-Star right back Steven Beitashour. Thus far, Harden – a converted center back – has taken those duties while Beitashour recovers from sports hernia surgery. To the explosive Zakuani, the UW product is a tantalizing matchup. He has been dangerous so far this season and this may be an opportunity for him to explode.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Sam Cronin
In one MLS game this year, Alonso gained possession for the Sounders 23 times – eight more than the next highest field player in the league last week. With possession being so vital against a team like San Jose, keeping up that level of performance against Cronin, San Jose’s holding midfielder, could open things up for the Sounders to attack.