The Seattle Sounders are looking to continue trending in the right direction.
That trend was on full display just four days ago — down three goals to visiting D.C. United, the Sounders rallied to become the first club in MLS history to overcome a three-goal deficit and win in regulation.
Sunday, the Sounders (7-7-6) welcome the Quakes to CenturyLink Field with just a single point separating them from San Jose in the Western Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot.
Both clubs have experienced jubilance on the pitch recently — San Jose currently sit just two wins away from capturing the U.S. Open Cup after the defeat of their Southern California rival, the Los Angeles Galaxy. But Sunday is all about the Heritage Cup, a trophy established in 2009 to celebrate the longstanding rivalry between the Sounders and Earthquakes, and awarded annually to the club that wins the final showdown of the season.
The Quakes and Sounders played to a 1-1 draw during their first meeting of the season back in April at Avaya Stadium.
And most important, the winner of Sunday’s contest will be vaulted into the postseason standings.
On the heels of the club’s cross-country roadtrip to New York, where San Jose were defeated 5-1 by the Red Bulls on Wednesday, the Quakes are yearning for a positive result after two-straight league defeats.
San Jose’s only tally in that match came from Georgian midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili, who just so happened to be making his MLS debut the same night.
“Some people are bothered that maybe it’s five goals,” Earthquakes coach Chris Leitch told reporters after the match. “We could have shored it up and maybe put an extra guy back there, and maybe it was 3-1. I could care less. I would rather try to stay on the front foot to get back in the game.”
Leitch, who was thrusted immediately into his first role as a head coach after the firing of manager Dominic Kinnear late last month, is 1-2-0 thus far in MLS play.
On the flipside, the Sounders are unbeaten in four league contests, and likely feeling extra confident after capping the club’s historic comeback against D.C. United.
“I hope the next game will be a little easier because this will not happen again,” Dutch international Kelvin Leerdam jokingly told The Seattle Times after making his Sounders debut off the bench Wednesday.
But Seattle will be troubled to fight for the win without the services of the club’s captain, Osvaldo Alonso, as well as Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris. Lodeiro will be unavailable due to suspension, while Dempsey and Morris are out on national team duties.
For San Jose, Fatai Alashe, Anibal Godoy, Victor Bernardez and Darwin Ceren are all available to serve the starting XI, as well as the aforementioned Qazaishvili. One player likely guaranteed a spot in the starting XI is team captain Chris Wondolowski, who has racked up 11 goals in 19 appearances against the Sounders, more than any other MLS player since the club joined the league in 2009.