Against last year’s top regular season team, the Sounders must operate without Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Mario Martinez, who have national-team obligations.
MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (0-1-1, 1 point, T8, MLS West) at San Jose Earthquakes (1-1-1, 4 points, T3, MLS West). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA. MEETING: 11th (Earthquakes lead 5-4-1). TV: KING 5. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
The Sounders have a headache as they prepare for their first road match of the season Saturday at San Jose: Three of their top players, leading scorer Eddie Johnson, new acquisition Obafemi Martins and Mario Martinez, are unavailable due to national team commitments, Johnson with the U.S., Martins with Nigeria, Martinez with Honduras.
“It’s good that national teams want our guys,” head coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “But the timing, right now, isn’t good for us because we’re at the start of the season, we’re trying to find ourselves and we finally got the whole group together. So some training time would have been nice.
“It’s tough when you lose players all in the same area of the field. That makes it a little bit harder. Every team has to go through it, to a certain extent. We’ll get through it.
“But it’s frustrating. I just delays things another week because we can’t train together. We just have to get that nucleus to play with cohesion.”
With Johnson and Martins missing from the forward spots, it’s likely that Schmid will go with Mauro Rosales and Sammy Ochoa, with David Estrada in reserve.
Rosales has spent time at forward, but has had his greatest success as a right midfielder. Like Estrada, Rosales is recovering from an injury and might be limited against the Earthquakes. Ochoa has proven solid, but not dominant as a forward since signing with the club in 2011.
The Sounders, who play five of their next seven league matches on the road, have another option at forward, Lamar Neagle, although Neagle has mainly been a midfielder. He’s listed as probable as a midfield starter Saturday.
The San Jose backline will be shorthanded, with defenders Victor Bernardez (Honduras) and Justin Morrow (USA) also away on national team duty. Bernardez was named the 2012 MLS Newcomer of the Year and Morrow’s goal against Columbus was nominated for the latest MLS Goal of the Week.
The Earthquakes opened with a 2-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake, then responded with a late 2-1 home victory over the New York Red Bulls before drawing 1-1 on the road with Columbus.
San Jose is coming off a 2012 season in which it won the Supporter’s Shield with 66 points (19-6-9) and scored 72 goals, 13 more than any other team. The Earthquakes lost just one game at home (10-1-6) and held a league-best +21 goal differential at home last season.
San Jose is led by defending MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski, who won the 2012 Budweiser Golden Boot with 27 goals, tied for the MLS single-season record. Wondolowski scored his first goal of 2013 on a penalty kick in a 2-1 win over the Red Bulls.
Ramiro Corrales, a 16-year MLS veteran with 37 career assists, has recorded an assist in each of the last two games. Forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart (23 goals combined in 2012) are each battling injuries and have yet to make an appearance this season.
Goalkeeper Jon Busch has nine saves and allowed four goals in three games.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch. Midfielders — Andy Rose, Lamar Neagle, Steve Zakuani, Osvaldo Alonso. Forwards — Mauro Rosales, Sammy Ochoa.
EARTHQUAKES PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Jon Busch. Defenders — Ty Harden, Nana Attakora, Jason Hernandez, Ramiro Corrales. Midfielders — Shea Salinas, Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Sam Garza. Forwards — Chris Wondolowski, Adam Jahn.
INJURIES (Sounders & Earthquakes): Seattle — none; San Jose — Mehdi Ballouchy, injured reserve.
SERIES: Dates to April 25, 2009, when the Sounders scored a 2-0 home win on goals by Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans. The Earthquakes took the series lead last year with three victories, dropping Seattle to 4-5-1 in the all-time series. San Jose holds a 14-11 goal advantage, with Wondolowski leading all scorers with five goals. Seattle is 1-2-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium, nearly earning a late draw in their last visit, only to be undone by a late San Jose winner.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||7 players tied with 2 starts each|
|Shots||Johnson 9, Martinez 4, Zakuani 2, Caskey 2|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 3, Martinez 2, Scott 1|
|Fouls Caused||Alonso 5, Evans 4, Zakuani 3|
|Fouls Suffered||Johnson 6, Alonso 5, Martinez 4|
|Offsides||Johnson 4, Zakuani 1, Evans 1, Martinez 1|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 8, Martinez 5|
|Cautions||Evans, Johnson, Alonso, Hurtado 1|
EARTHQUAKES NOTES: Former Sounders FC players Mike Fucito and Cordell Cato play for San Jose . . . Defender Ty Harden and midfielder Jacob Hustedt attended the University of Washington . . . Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart played for Sigi Schmid and with Brad Evans in Columbus in 2008 . . . Seattle’s Servando Carrasco and San Jose’s David Bingham played together at Cal-Berkeley . . . Ramiro Corrales is the last player remaining from Major League Soccer’s inaugural season.
COMING UP: The Sounders travel to Rio Tinto Stadium March 30 to face Real Salt Lake.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(0-1-0, 0 points, MLS; 1-0-0 CCL; 0-0-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||—||—||—|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||—||—||—|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING/KONG||—||—||—|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||—||—||—|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer