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Earthquakes v Sounders: A Journey Into The Unknown

Nobody knows what to expect of the new look Earthquakes and that could be a big advantage

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Wondolowski and Gonzalez
Chris Wondolowski Working On His Levitation

Time was people knew what to expect when they were about to play the San Jose Earthquakes, or at least they thought they did. From Sigi Schmid to Bruce Arena to Caleb Porter and back again you heard this over and over. San Jose was basically a long ball up the middle and get physical kind of team. Well, in the words of Peter Sellars as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther: "Not any more!"

Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid  speaking on the Sounders web site is well aware of the unknown aspects of the new Quakes, saying: "A new coach brings a different philosophy, a different style of play. For them (San Jose) all the changes, the players they added towards the end of last year, they’re trying to find their cohesion as a unit."

So, along with a new head coach’s philosophy and tactical approach plus a bus half full of new players, perhaps the main thing the Quakes bring to this game is the advantage of uncertainty. Understandably they are looking for their cohesion but the upside of this is that nobody knows what they’re facing with this new team; what little footage of the team there is will provide very little solid information to opponents. San Jose’s fluid nature as the new team forms could have them flowing like mercury round the Sounders players who have been drilled for the last few years and are more or less planted in their lanes. That said, there will need to be a marked increase in goalkeeper/defender communication from the Tower of Babel collisions we saw between David Bingham and various of his teammates in the opening game against Dallas FC.

The signs of communication are all there and it’s obvious Dominic Kinnear is working this mixture of familiar and new players on the training field  in ways that are markedly different from those of the last couple of years. Even compared to the more successful Frank Yallop period, we’re now seeing more short passing, more ground play, and that takes time to establish in the players’ muscle memory. As communication grows, it’s also likely we’ll see increased switching of the play to make use of both flanks. In the past, too often it seemed San Jose were flying only one engine – usually the one on the left wing.

Among the many things that can be controlled and changed, head coach, players, tactics, there’s one aspect of the game beyond anyone’s control. Managers and players will sometimes cite this factor as reasons, usually for failure, and that factor is luck. Plainly put, San Jose could use a massive change of luck. Come on soccer gods, go mess with some other franchise;  Los Angeles springs to mind.

Talking of luck, and I don’t care how many feather this ruffles, you’d be hard put to find a better example of luck than that unlikely Obafemi Martins goal against the Quakes last year that not only ended up in the net but somehow landed MLS Goal of the Year. There are those who say after he reached that over hit pass from Gonzalo Pineda, Martins looked to the goal, and so he did, after he kicked the ball. Now, call me what you like (it’s a free country) but in my experience just prior to a gob-smacking pass or strike on goal, most players will look to the goal just before they kick it. So unless Martins possesses psycho-kinetic powers and looked at the ball after he kicked it in order to steer it over Jon Busch’s head and into the net, it was a salvaged over hit pass, rescued at the line, and hit not as a strike on goal but as a last gasp desperate attempt to cross the ball into the area. Surely if Martins does have psycho-kinetic powers, he could stand anywhere, or just sit at home (or at the Uri Geller Institute for Spoon Bending) watching the game, occasionally steering the ball into the net with the power of his mind alone.

The other thing that suggests this goal was unintentional is Busch’s positioning; having seen Martins reach the ball he was scrambling to position himself to deal with a ball into the area. The look on his face as the ball dropped over his head was several thousand miles away from that familiar keeper expression that says : "Well there was nothing I could do about a brilliant strike like that." Busch’s shocked expression and raised eyebrows were a lot closer to "What the f*%# was that? You have got to be sh*%%ing me!"

So, bring on the new head coach, bring on the new players, bring on the luck, (the psycho kinetic powers,even) but above all bring on an epic battle between these two bitter rivals. And may the best goal win.