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San Jose Earthquakes versus Seattle Sounders USOC preview: Three questions with Sounder at Heart

Shea Salinas looks set to make his first start for the San Jose Earthquakes since injuring his shoulder against the New York Red Bulls back on April 14.
Shea Salinas looks set to make his first start for the San Jose Earthquakes since injuring his shoulder against the New York Red Bulls back on April 14.

The San Jose Earthquakes are flying high following a successful two game road trip through the Rocky Mountains. Courtesy of the team’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, the Earthquakes now claim the best record in MLS. That possible MLS Cup Final at Buck Shaw Stadium is looking more and more likely with every "Goonies never say die!" comeback win by San Jose.

The road to the 2012 MLS Supporters’ Shield takes a break tonight, as the Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders face off in a quarterfinal match in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament. Yes, the three-time defending champions Sounders are visiting the Quakes at their San Francisco home away from home Kezar Stadium at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The winner moves on to host a semifinal round match against the winner of the Chivas USA and Charlotte Eagles match also being contested tonight.

Want to know more about the Sounders than what you saw in their Sunday loss to rivals Portland Timbers? Well, look no further than to another fine episode of "The Three Questions" with special guest Sounder at Heart.

Quake, Rattle and Goal: Matt Doyle, the MLS Armchair Analyst, declared that the Sounders were officially in "crisis mode" following their match at Portland. Certainly the team is struggling in MLS right now, but when the USOC spotlight turns on, that doesn't seem to be the case. How will the current MLS swoon affect the way the Sounders enter the game Tuesday night?

Sounder at Heart: If anything it will drive them to perform. The only way to climb out of a slump is to start winning. For some odd reason the Sounders perform better in the Open Cup and this may be just what they need. Of course the same thing could be said about the two week break with the wins over Atlanta and Cal FC and in the end that didn't change much when MLS play started again.

Jobs are clearly on the line. With the transfer window opening just around the corner Seattle's players will have to perform or be replaced. Is that drastic? Yes, but Sigi is clearly part of the foundation of the team's long term success whereas players can be changed out.

More questions after the jump...

QRG: The Earthquakes are liking to make a few changes to their USOC starting XI from the line-ups that played in league play the last week. What changes might the Sounders make from the team that lost to Portland on Sunday?

S@H: Quite a few changes should be expected. That starting lineup was 10 of 11 of the starters that drew last Wednesday to Sporting KC. Since Montero can't play in Colorado and Fernandez is well rested both will probably start. Andy Rose seems to have replaced Brad Evans for tactical reasons. The backline is a huge question as it hasn't been good, but there aren't healthy and rested options. Daniel Steres and Roger Levesque could play along the line and I wouldn't be surprised. Leo Gonzalez should replace Marc Burch. I'm talking myself onto a ledge.

QRG: The Earthquakes front office has taken to heart the U.S. Open Cup tournament in a way they never have before and see the match-up with the three-time defending Cup champions as a measuring stick for not just the team, but the entire organization. What message have the Sounders made in regard to being the team with the target on their back and how they approach their competition the last couple years?

S@H: Seattle knows what it is to be targeted in this tournament. A win and they'd have their 6th Adrian Hanauer GM'd team in the semifinals. They've beaten MLS squads with history of success in the tourney to win two Open Cups (D.C. United and Chicago Fire); they traveled to local, but lower division rival Portland to advance; and they beat the darlings of American soccer to advance to this match. There is an organizational desire to set another historical bar and become the first ever team to win four straight. This want may be related to some provincialism in Seattle and the organization wanting to make it clear that the market was ignored too long by MLS and USSF. Still Tuesday night's game is probably the second toughest of Sounders FC's Open Cup history.

For a look at The Three Questions from the Seattle Sounders perspective, be sure to visit Sounder at Heart.