Earthquakes face tough early test at Seattle

The San Jose Earthquakes need a win in the worst way.

Now 16 games removed from a victory, the Quakes haven’t won since opening Levi’s Stadium on August 2 of last year. Their opponent that night was Seattle Sounders, the same team they’ll face Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Cream of the crop

Coming off a Supporters’ Shield in 2014, Seattle picked up right where they left off in last weekend’s home opener, embarrassing MLS Cup runners-up New England Revolution in a 3-0 shellacking.

Seattle defined themselves in 2014 with the interplay between strikers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, who combined for 32 goals and 23 assists in 2014. Last week the duo remained unstoppable, accounting for all three goals and an assist.

Seattle’s success comes from balance in all areas of the field, starting with reigning (and three time) defender of the year Chad Marshall leading the back line. Marshall looks like he hasn’t missed a beat from last season, with his performance playing a large part in allowing New England only one shot on target last Saturday.

The Quakes catch a slight break with excellent midfielder Osvaldo Alonso remaining out with a right groin injury, but the Seattle midfield didn’t appear to suffer any ill effects last week with Alonso out.

Growing pains

David Bingham was on his way to grabbing his first clean sheet as a full-time starter last Saturday, until a miscommunication between him and veteran defender Victor Bernardez led to an untimely stoppage time goal for Dallas. On the goal Bingham said:

“It’s a learning curve. It’s a little bit of communication, probably more on my part. He didn’t hear me coming. He didn’t know there was no one around.”

We’ll get an idea on exactly how steep that learning curve is for Bingham and the back line this weekend. With Clarence Goodson looking unlikely to start once again, we will again see the Spanish speaking pairing of Bernardez and Paulo Renato in front of the young goalkeeper.

The last-minute miscue was one of a handful of mishaps during the Dallas game, all of which stemmed from defenders not expecting the aggressive Bingham to rush off his line. The incidents overshadowed what was an impressive debut from the Cal grad, who made three saves and was mostly effective coming out for balls despite the communication issues.

The mistake between Bingham and Bernardez was the defining moment of last week’s game, and having the defense on the same page will be crucial against one of the league’s most potent attacks.

Designated players

To have a chance, the Earthquakes will need to get a better performance from Matias Perez Garcia, who didn’t do a good job setting his teammates up (71 percent pass accuracy via whoscored.com) or creating his own chances, only taking a single shot against Dallas.

Garcia is supposed to fill the playmaker role that was vacant all of last year, and his ineffectiveness last week contributed to an inept attack that resembled last season’s. Garcia’s play will have to improve if San Jose wants to sniff a playoff birth this year.

San Jose’s newest designated player, Swiss forward Innocent Emeghara, remains questionable as a starter against Seattle, after making his debut as a late substitute against Dallas.

Prediction

San Jose had two positive results against Seattle last year, but one saw the visitors without Chad Marshall and the other without Clint Dempsey. Seattle is better than San Jose in every area of the field, and look like they may have improved last year’s team that won both the Supporter’s Shield and the U.S. Open Cup.

With the Quakes still feeling things out in both attack and defense, chances are they will be 17 games without a win after Saturday night.

Seattle 2, San Jose 0


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