Eric Goncalves

Three matchups to that could swing SEAvSJ on Thursday

The Seattle Sounders are hosting the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (7 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Prime Video, 1090 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) in their second meeting of the 2020 MLS regular season. Here are three matchups to watch.

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João Paulo vs. San Jose’s high press

The Sounders were without their new Designated Player the last time out against the ‘Quakes, as João Paulo missed the entirety of the MLS is Back tournament with an injury. In their scoreless draw in July, the Sounders had some difficulty navigating San Jose’s high pressure and man-marking system, a staple of Head Coach Matías Almeyda. Seattle had just 38% possession and was outpassed 570-351.

One of the Brazilian João Paulo’s strengths is alleviating pressure out of the back and breaking lines. It’ll be his responsibility to help spearhead the attack from deep and ultimately connect with…

Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Jackson Yueill

Take a look at Lodeiro’s passing chart from Seattle’s last match against San Jose.

Without a consistent outlet to break the Earthquakes’ system, Lodeiro had to drop much deeper than he, and Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, would prefer. He had to go and find the ball, rather than receive it higher up the field where he’s one of the league's most lethal attackers.

Yueill will likely be tasked with trying to slow Lodeiro down. The young United States international is one of the best American midfielders in MLS. He has exceptional distribution skills and will be the focal point for the ‘Quakes attack after a Sounders turnover. The best way to keep Yueill at bay is to make him play more defense, and that starts with keeping Lodeiro farther up the field.

Andrés Ríos vs. the Sounders’ back line

San Jose has several options up front in veteran Dutch forward Danny Hoesen and MLS’ all-time leading goalscorer Chris Wondolowski, but Almeyda has started Argentine striker Ríos in seven of San Jose’s eight matches this year. The 31-year-old joined the ‘Quakes last summer and has two goals so far this season.

The Sounders were brilliant defensively in their first two matches after the MLS is Back tournament, blanking the Portland Timbers on the road before allowing just one goal to LAFC, a team that put four past Seattle a few weeks earlier in Orlando. But Seattle has shipped four goals in its last two matches, including a couple of uncharacteristic lapses that Schmetzer called “not [their] best defensive moments.” How well the Sounders’ back line, in particular center backs Yeimar Gómez Andrade and Shane O’Neill, play on Thursday will be pivotal in determining which team comes away with three points.