Technically speaking, Saturday night will be the first time the Sounders FC face the San Jose Earthquakes. That is disregarding the numerous friendlies and US Open Cup games between the Earthquakes and the USL-era Sounders. And even more so was the long-standing rivalry during the North American Soccer League over two decades ago.
Both clubs are steeped in soccer tradition, though on Saturday they will appear in the scorebook as first-time combatants.
However, it should be a much different meeting than the preseason game they played at Cal-Poly San Louis Obispo in February. In that game, Seattle did not have star midfielder Freddie Ljungberg or defenders Tyrone Marshall and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado in their lineup and San Jose was far from finalizing their starting 11 as well.
“That seems like a long, long time ago. We had a much different central defense in that game than we have now, but it’s a game that Fredy Montero should have good memories of because he got two goals,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said of the 3-2 loss. “It all comes down to we have to play our game. This is a league that’s very competitive. Teams are very balanced and are pretty close, and you need guys to have good games.”
At 1-2-2 on the season, San Jose has yet to live up to the promise they showed at the end of their expansion year in 2008 when they finished 6-4-3 over their final 13 games. This season they are led by the offensive firepower of Arturo Alvarez, Ryan Johnson, Pablo Campos and Darren Huckerby, though Huckerby is doubtful tomorrow because of quad strain that kept him out of last week’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy.
“San Jose is an improved team over they were at the beginning of last year. The addition of Bobby Convey, they’ve added themselves a nice attacking wide player. So when you go to Ryan Johnson, and Pablo Campos got his first goal for them in the last game as well. Arturo Alvarez is a very tricky player,” Schmid said. “They got a lot of good offensive weapons.”
That is complemented by the defensive presence of goalkeeper Joe Cannon, an MLS veteran with 93 wins and 65 shutouts in 250 career starts.
Seattle, meanwhile, is trying to bounce back after a 2-0 loss in LA against Chivas USA that dropped them to 3-2-0 on the season after starting the year with three straight victories. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller returns to the lineup after serving a red card suspension and has still not allowed a goal in 299 MLS minutes.
Ljungberg and Montero are also growing their cohesion.
“Part of it comes with time. Ljungberg and Montero have played together now a total of maybe 180 minutes. Once they get like 700 minutes together, I think they’ll understand each other a lot better,” Schmid said. “So I think over time that will get better.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 at Qwest Field. The game will be broadcast on KING TV and on the radio at 97.3 KIRO FM.