Three Key Match-Ups: at San Jose Earthquakes

Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, August 2; 7:30 pm PT; Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, Calif.
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Sounders FC will help open the San Francisco 49ers’ new park against the San Jose Earthquakes at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday.  Here are three matchups to watch in the nationally televised match.

Obafemi Martins vs. Jon Busch
Last time Seattle and San Jose met, Martins scored a mesmerizing goal that left Busch befuddled.  Holding off a defender on a run up the left side, Martins chipped the ball at a near-impossible angle to sneak the ball past the unsuspecting Busch for the lone goal in a 1-0 win in May.  San Jose will have Victor Bernardez back in the lineup and with Jason Hernandez beside him, there is a much stronger Earthquakes defense.  After being held to just two shots against the LA Galaxy on Monday, Martins will be hungry against the Earthquakes.

Yannick Djalo vs. Osvaldo Alonso
Against the LA Galaxy, Robbie Keane was left too much space in front of the defense.  With that in mind, Seattle has paid extra attention to closing down those gaps in training this week and it will undoubtedly be a focus against San Jose.  Last week against the Chicago Fire, Djalo played underneath Chris Wondolowski and got the ball in similar channels for San Jose.  For Seattle’s to hold the type of possession that has helped it to the top record in MLS, Alonso will be charged with limiting Djalo’s touches on the ball – a challenge that the four-time All-Star relishes.

Chris Wondolowski vs. Seattle’s center backs
Wondolowski has four career goals against Sounders FC, but hasn’t scored since 2012.  He has seen limited action against Seattle because of international duty over the last two years, but with San Jose’s different approach without Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart on the field, he has become even more of a focus in the attack.  On the other side, Seattle has four center back options that all could find the starting lineup on Saturday. 

Head Coach Sigi Schmid said that Chad Marshall wasn’t ready Thursday, but wouldn’t rule him out for Saturday after back spasms made him a late scratch on Monday against the Galaxy.  Djimi Traore is working his way back from injury and could see time on Saturday, as well, or Jalil Anibaba and Zach Scott—who both started against LA—could be back again.  All four offer a different approach and will have a tough task in limiting Wondolowski’s scoring chances.