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Looking Ahead to the Seattle Sounders Visit to the San Jose Earthquakes: Three Questions with Sounder at Heart

Earlier in the week, I helped answer some questions about the Earthquakes for SBNation’s Seattle Sounders FC blog, the always informative Sounder at Heart. In return, Dave Clark has replied with his takes on three questions facing Seattle as this weekend’s match at Buck Shaw Stadium draws closer.

QRG — What has been the effect of the abrupt departure of Blaise N'kufo just minutes before MLS First Kick? Has that required Sigi Schmid to modify his tactics and set the Sounders offense back as they adjust?

DC — Sigi hasn't really adjusted his tactics as much as he's been forced to take the planned 3rd Target man and play him. O'Brian White was acquired to be the future, unfortunately he's the forward of the now. Right now, he's been okay. There are flashes of goodness, but at this point people want great, as he's replacing a Designated Player.

QRG — James Riley, a fan favorite during his year with the Earthquakes in 2008, joined the Sounders two years ago in the Expansion Draft. What kind of impact has he had for the Sounders, and what developments and improvements has he made on the field in his time in Seattle?

DC — San Jose already knows this but if I were to talk about Riley and not mention his off-field work I would be failing. There he is amazing. On the field, particularly in 2009, we saw a player who while listed as a right back played more like a second right midfielder. I think it is Kasey Keller that is hammering home that he has to be a defender first. When he is in the right position he's solid, but there are times that he gets too far forward.

QRG — After earning just 1 point out of 9 in the first two weeks of the season, are the supporters getting restless? What about the players, how are they handling the slow start?

DC — Sure, there are people panicking. None I know, but it is a common thread at these times. It should be unnecessary, but it does exist. The players don't seem to be pressing, nor are they on edge. They've been doing the right thing. Of course at this point Jon Busch will be keeper of the week.

One of the subplots in the two regular season games this season between the Earthquakes and the Sounders involves the Heritage Cup. Founded by supporters groups in Seattle and San Jose in 2009 as a competition between current MLS teams that share the same nickname as their old NASL counterparts, those two clubs were the only participants over the last two seasons. In 2011, even though the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are eligible to join the competition, the trophy will be contested without the MLS newcomers as their supporters groups declined to participate this season. With that in mind, I asked Dave a bonus question about the trophy up for grabs starting on Saturday evening.

QRG — Could you share any thoughts you have on the Heritage Cup competition? Is it necessary, is there a place for it going forward, are fans even aware that it exists?

DC — The Heritage Cup doesn't really connect here. It isn't that Seattle is anti-Heritage, but that there is a significantly more important supporters trophy for us. The problem probably lies in that it seems as a way for San Jose to piggy back on the Cascadia Cup rivalries. If one more team in MLS were to go with their NASL name things probably would change. With two more it definitely does. But let's be honest, I'd still rather see supporter created minor trophies than League forced.