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10 mins: ...it's lofted in temptingly for Rose, who's arriving at the back post, but it floats out for a goal kick. A little disappointing from the playmaker, but in fairness this is his first full start. Still San Jose 0 Seattle 0
8 mins: Wondolowski lunges at a Morrow cross to the back post, but it's just too far ahead of him to get a touch to - by virtue of there actually being someone in the box when it arrived, that was a better cross than the two Seattle have had so far. Seattle have a free kick after Alonso clashes with Cronin. Tiffert over it...
6 mins: Seattle settling now and beginning to ask questions. They spread the ball wide for Burch, but once again it's a sloppy cross. We've just seen a shot of an impressive contingent of Seattle's ECS fans in full voice, by the way.
4 mins: San Jose closing down well early as Seattle try to settle and get their feet on the ball a little. The Sounders have a throw in the San Jose half, and manage to fashion a half chance as Bernardez struggles to clear his lines. The ball squirms wide to an open player, but the cross, when it arrives, is to noone.
2 mins: Now San Jose get forward and Wondolowski earns the first corner off Parke, down the right. Chavez hits it near post and it's cleared for another corner. Again it's near post, but Seattle force it clear.
Peep: Seattle get us under way and almost immediately there's a free kick for San Jose for the first foul. This may be the first of a pattern. These two sides really don't like each other.
Medhi Ballouchy's praises being sung by the San Jose commentary team - he's just been traded to the Quakes. Skillful player - one of those guys who team mates claim is "always doing amazing things in training", but he's yet to truly demand a first team place wherever he's gone. It's possible he's been signed on the Mac Kandji principle - whereby teams sign a fringe player from the New York Red Bulls, then make a run to win MLS Cup with him. Possibly the same goes forDane Richards at Vancouver. Speaking of which...
Good win for Vancouver against RSL tonight - and with a Dane Richards' goal, natch.
OK almost off...
Now in my 15th minute of montages...
The MLS feed, which has been showing endless montages of rather nice goals during countdown to live coverage, just froze and then went veeeeeery pixelly by the way. The caption is claiming that "The game will start soon" but they said the same on Wednesday, and then it rained and hailed and kept me up very late indeed. If the issues with the feed persist, I may be reporting on the second half sometime during the Olympic closing ceremony. Now we're joining the live coverage at Buck Shaw (allegedly...)
San Jose Earthquakes: Busch; Beitashour, Hernandez, Bernardez, Morrow; Chaves, Cronin, Baca, Dawkins; Lenhart, Wondolowski (C).
Seattle Sounders: Gspurning; Johansson, Parke, Scott, Burch; Evans, Alonso (C), Rose, Caskey; Tiffert, Ochoa.
So a familiar looking line up for San Jose, especially up front - but it’s all change for that tired Seattle side, with Tiffert indeed getting the start underneath Ochoa, while Rose and Caskey get the chance to pick up where they left off in the league, with the hope that the Cup was a blip - a four-year-era-ending blip, but a blip nonetheless.
What are the Sounders made of?
This is a defining period of the Sounders season. Before Wednesday their form had been steadily improving after their indifferent early season spell, and last weekend they put on an absolute master class to dismantle an LA Galaxy side who themselves came into the game full of confidence and in full revival mode. They left Seattle having been beaten 4-0 - in a game that saw debut MLS goals for Rose and Caskey and sent the Sounders into their potentially history-making Cup final in ominous form.
But then Sporting KC happened. As that game wore on, Rose and Caskey were both subbed out after lackluster performances; Montero was anonymous and went off too; and Alonso, having been booked in the fifth minute, looked tight and nervous - eventually blazing a penalty over the bar. There would be controversy in the shoot out, when Gspurning was penalized for coming off his line to make what looked to have been a crucial save against Nagamura, but as one of our regular Seattle match day previewers, Sam Chesneau, put it in his preview for this game “missing 3 penalty kicks in a row does not win you hardware”. As he also said, this could be a game that tells us a lot about the character of this 2012 Sounders side - for whom so much of their recent identity has been wrapped up in their unbeatable domestic cup form
San Jose and hairy situations
Conventional wisdom (once it had been hastily adapted to acknowledge the play of the Earthquakes in the first half of this season) had this as a moment when the Earthquakes would have fallen off the pace. Said wisdom would have it that Wondolowski’s form was too historically streaky, and that the Quakes were due their annual slump, such as the one that derailed their playoff hopes last summer. Instead, we’re past the All Star game and the Earthquakes still lead the Supporters Shield race, with Wondolowski's still in record-breaking scoring form - while the pre-season favorites have all endured sustained dips in form behind them. LA were dreadful at the start of the season, Seattle winless in ten shortly afterwards, while lately RSL have been doing their best to ease San Jose’s burden at the top of the standings, by slipping to consecutive losses, including tonight’s capitulation at Vancouver, and generally looking like a side on the decline.
It’s not that San Jose haven’t had their scares, but they’ve often shown the character to dig themselves out of trouble - not least in their last home game against Chicago, where with their unbeaten record at Buck Shaw on the line, they dug deep to score that late dramatic leveller that had the crowd and the players wigging out...
No rest for the vanquished. No sooner had an exhausted Seattle Sounders dragged themselves off the field at Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday night, after a rain-delayed, bruising US Open Cup final had ended in a controversial penalty shoot out, than they had to begin regrouping, for a visit to the team who lead the MLS standings.
Never mind that the Sounders had just blown, or been robbed of, or more simply, lost, their chance at a historic fourth successive US Open Cup trophy, the MLS schedule now had them bundled on a plane to head back for a showdown in wigtown, against a San Jose side who are possibly the last people you'd want to visit when you're dwelling on what might have been. Add the particular added spice of the Sounders having knocked San Jose out of the Cup in a bad-tempered quarter-final and the ingredients are there for a long night for Seattle.
Having let themselves be drawn into a close physical contest against a battling Sporting KC side, you really have to wonder how much the Sounders will have left in the tank, against a San Jose side who've made something of a habit of tenderizing their opponents over much of regulation time, before putting them away in the final moments, or as in their last game, scoring in the eighth minute of injury time. So a lot may be asked of some of Seattle's fringe players - or those like Christian Tiffert, who only made substitute appearances on Wednesday. With tired legs around him, now would be a good time for Tiffert to really confirm his value as a new arrival - a win would close the gap on the leaders to 4 points with a game in hand.
San Jose for their part, don't particularly care who's put in front of them - the pattern is the same. They've played badly on rare occasions this year, but never timidly - Wondolowski's goals are threatening Roy Lassiter's MLS scoring record, while Dawkins has been a persistent thorn on opponents' sides. And Lenhart has been...Lenhart - abrasive, awkward, and horrible to defend against. After their storming start, they were predicted to have fallen back by now, but the Goonies are showing few significant signs of slowing. This is a big challenge for Seattle.
I'll be back soon with team news and a little more build-up, but in the mean time get your tweets and emails coming in to @KidWeil or email@example.com and catch up with what happened in the two team's previous MLS game this season, way back in March.