The San Jose Earthquakes will visit Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday as an evolving jumble of new shine and old familiarity.
Gone are such familiar Quakes as Jason Hernandez, Jon Busch, Atiba Harris, Sam Cronin, Andy Gruenebaum and even coach Mark Watson.
However, goals leader Chris Wondolowski remains around — and dangerous.
There also are plenty of faces that are familiar yet new to the organization, such as longtime Houston coach Dominic Kinnear and no less than four former Sounders.
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“They’re much different,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “A new coach brings a different philosophy, a different style of play. Dominic has been successful in the league playing the way he’s done for a lot of years. … The players they added toward the end of last year, I think they’re really trying to find their cohesion as a unit. … But they’re a team that is dangerous because you really don’t know what their exact formation is going to be. They played a couple of formations in (their opening) game, so we’ll have to see.”
The Sounders and Quakes qualify as rivals well beyond the West Coast geography. For one thing, the intensity is regularly ramped up by San Jose’s physical style of play, often personified by Steven Lenhart, who is out with a knee injury.
For another, you really can throw out the records. Despite Seattle’s generally more successful run, the Quakes lead the overall regular-season series, 8-6-2. Last season, when the Sounders had the best record in the league and the Quakes finished last in the West, the clubs split their regular-season series 1-1-1.
That’s one reason Schmid projects little from his Sounders’ opening the season with a 3-0 win against New England, while San Jose debuted with a 1-0 loss at Dallas.
“San Jose has always been a tough opponent for us — it doesn’t matter who was coaching them, whether it was (coach Frank) Yallop or Watson and now it’s Dominic,” he said. “Obviously they’ve changed a lot of personnel, so it will be a different matchup this year, but it’s going to be a tough game. They’re on the road again, they’re going to want to get some points; and we want to make sure we keep getting points at home.”
If Seattle is going to achieve that goal, a key will be controlling goals wizard Wondolowski, who has 93 career goals over a dozen MLS seasons. He has scored at least 10 goals over five straight seasons — one of only three MLS players ever to accomplish such a run.
One of the guys trying to keep track of him Saturday will be Brad Evans, who is expected to start just his second game at center back.
“A very difficult team to play,” Evans said. “Speed on the outside. Very unconventional. Wondo is so good in the box. His movement is unlike any other forward in the way that he moves and in the way that he finds goals. … If you look once and look away, Wondo’s gone. That’s the name of the game for him.”
San Jose’s roster also includes four former Sounders: forwards Cordell Cato and Mike Fucito, midfielder Sanna Nyassi and reserve goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
Nyassi “was somebody that we looked at,” Schmid said. “It just wasn’t going to work in terms of the draft order and things like that. It’s always nice to see old friends. Some of the players that ended up leaving here were not necessarily things that we did by choice.”
Meredith “was a reserve here for a few years and another opportunity came along and we wanted him to be able to use it,” Schmid added.