Kickoff quickly approaches, but for the first San Jose Earthquakes game in four months, we’re pulling out all the stops. We checked in with Jeremiah Oshan of SB Nation’s Seattle Sounders blog Sounder At Heart to get a sense of how things look for the Earthquakes’ opponent on Friday. Many thanks to Jeremiah for taking the time to answer my questions.
Center Line Soccer asks Sounder at Heart:
1. Let’s start with the obvious: What’s the feeling around the Sounders about actually playing in Orlando right now?
They are definitely saying all the right things, starting with the belief that they see themselves as the defending champions. Like most teams, I think they figure that whether or not this was their first choice in terms of restarting the season that they’re now here so they may as well go win the thing. Of course, the test will be how long that attitude holds up and what they’re willing to risk in order to follow through. As evidenced by the way they seem to be treating Joao Paulo’s injury — it sounds like he’s out for at least the first two games — they aren’t going to push anyone beyond their comfort zone. I don’t think they need to, but I think they’re going to err on the side of caution and will likely use all five of those subs.
2. I’m curious if you think Seattle will weather the long layoff better than most teams because of their experience and success, or if they’re in a worse position than most because they’re unlikely to have any of their typical rhythm and that will level the playing field. What do you think?
I really don’t know what to think as far as that goes. In one sense, I think they’re mentally set up to do that because they have so much experience. On the other hand, I don’t think they feel as though they have something to prove. Let’s be honest, they could lose all three of their games in this tournament and probably wouldn’t lose any of their self belief. I’m not even sure the pundit class would hold it against them. Secretly, they might even be OK with heading home early as long as they’re all healthy. Does that freedom give them an edge? Maybe. But it also makes it very hard to predict how this tournament goes.
3. Any interesting newcomers to the squad this year?
The biggest offseason acquisition was João Paulo, but like I said he’s probably not playing in this game. The other big signing was Yeimar Gomez Andrade, a Colombian centerback who had been playing in Argentina. He was a very late arrival and was still getting all his paperwork squared away when the season began, which is why he only played in one of the two games. From what we’ve seen, though, he’s a big, fast guy who looks well equipped to be a solid player in the league. How he meshes with Xavier Arreaga will be fascinating to watch. The other notable offseason signings were MLS veterans Miguel Ibarra and Shane O’Neill. Ibarra actually ended up starting the first two games and could well end up starting this one, too. He’s consistently gotten himself into dangerous spots and actually has one of the best xG’s in the league so far and had a goal disallowed for being offside. Unfortunately, he hasn’t actually scored so we’ll see how that goes.
You can find my answers to Jeremiah’s questions on Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.