First up, Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart answers Nerdy Gales’s questions...
1. CLS: The Earthquakes have continued their trend of winning at home, and losing away -- how will Seattle break the Earthquakes home record streak?
SAH: Seattle has traditionally struggled in San Jose. It used to be the small pitch that messed with how the Sounders liked to play with width. Now, with Avaya that's not the case. To get more than a draw or loss Seattle will need to continue the defensive posture they've succeeded with in their last three matches and the attack they demonstrated against Montreal and New York Red Bulls. Being at 95% for health among the top 18 players should go a long way towards that. Only Brad Evans, of the locks for the 18, will be out. Getting Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey on the same page in attack is more important than the team they are facing.
2. CLS: Clint Dempsey already has two goals in four games, and seems to have picked up exactly where he left off before his health issues. Is he the best offseason (re)acquisition, or is there somebody else the Earthquakes should be keeping an eye on?
SAH: Clint's resurgence is definitely the biggest addition. Harry Shipp and Will Bruin are good players to add from within the league, and Gustav Svensson came on a free from Guangzhou R&F in the China Super League. But those three combined are not as exciting as a fully operational Clint Dempsey. Just a week ago he showed what he's still capable of doing when he dominated Honduras at Avaya Stadium. This is the Dempsey that American soccer fans love, and Seattle "added" him to a team that went on that miracle run to win the Cup.
3. CLS: What's the latest on Jordan Morris's ankle injury that kept him out of the USMNT World Cup qualifiers - will he be available on Saturday?
SAH: Jordan started and played a full 90 in the nil-nil draw against Atlanta United. But he also wasn't quite as a effective as usual. His zero shots was atypical and he had just three touches inside the 18. This week Morris is at practice in full and there is no reason to doubt his availability or to think that the injury will slow down his play.
Projected Lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Oniel Fisher; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Harry Shipp, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Jordan Morris.
Next up, Nerdy answers Dave’s three questions.
1. SAH: Without Victor Bernardez on the backline where will Dom Kinnear turn and how will that impact the defense?
CLS: Victor Bernardez’s red card could not have come at a worse time. Newly acquired defender Harold Cummings was poised for his first appearance in the line up after recovering from hernia surgery. Then the news came down that he had broken his leg after an accident at home, and would be out for 4-6 months. Marvell Wynne is also gone for the rest of the season after open-heart surgery, after diagnosis of a cardiac abnormality in the preseason.
Rookie Nick Lima and veteran Shaun Francis are the likely starters at the outside back positions. Florian Jungwirth has already nailed down the starting center back alongside Bernardez. Jungwirth will be paired with Andres Imperiale or Kofi Sarkodie (the only two central defenders left on the roster – so no bold prediction there), neither has seen much recent playing time. Imperiale is a solid defender, and effective tackler and perhaps more suited to the high level of physicality expected in this game – especially if the predicted rainstorm materializes. In normal circumstances Bernardez definitely controls the back line, but Jungwirth is also very vocal – communication will be key to maintaining an effective defense.
2 . SAH: David Bingham went from USMNT call up to a couple of odd errors. Which is the real Bingham?
CLS: The first error in the SKC game was a curious goal – the deflection off Nick Lima put an unmanageable (apparently) amount of spin on the ball, so it appeared to be a freak accident. If Lima could routinely put that amount of spin on the ball on offense, he’d be starting forward alongside Wondo. The second, at NYCFC, was deflected and lobbed over his head and into the net – close, but no cigar.
David Bingham had eight shutouts and a 72% save percentage on 2016, so I’m prepared to overlook the perplexing start to his 2017 campaign, especially after just four games. Hopefully he’s got these glitches out of his system early on in the season. I’m more concerned about how well the back line gels in front of Bingham against the Lodeiro\Morris\Dempsey triple threat for Seattle.
3. SAH: How important is Anibal Godoy to the 2017 Quakes?
CLS: I don’t believe his importance can be overstated – he’s the main conduit from back to front, he’s hard to push off the ball, he’s very accurate, and reads the game expertly. That’s why he’s still playing at the top level for Panama, and the Earthquakes tend to be more effective down the flanks in his absence. The Earthquakes have a much better repertoire of attacking weaponry when he’s in the lineup. The worst thing I can say about him is that he’s rolled out some egregiously bad haircuts this season
Projected Lineup: David Bingham; Shaun Francis, Florian Jungwirth, Andres Imperiale, Nick Lima; Simon Dawkins, Fatai Alashe, Anibal Godoy, Tommy Thompson, Marco Ureña, Chris Wondolowski.