Santa Clara, CA – A pair of Western Conference heavyweights will meet at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday as the San Jose Earthquakes take on Seattle Sounders FC.
Seattle has been a perennial contender in the West since entering the league in 2009, but it was San Jose that enjoyed a better season in 2012.
The 'Quakes finished atop the Western Conference last season with 66 points, 10 points better the Sounders. It was good enough for Frank Yallop's side to take home MLS Supporters' Shield honors for the second time in club history.
San Jose fizzled out of the playoffs last term and have gone 1-1-1 through its first three matches of the new season, but even with a somewhat indifferent start to the new campaign, the 'Quakes have managed to look like shells of their former selves.
Last year, 40 of San Jose's league-leading 72 goals came at the 60-minute mark or later, while the club's three goals this season have come in the final 20 minutes. The most recent strike, a 73rd-minute goal from Justin Morrow last time out, saw the 'Quakes salvage a point in a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew.
"I still think we really should have got three points," said Yallop. "We'll obviously settle for a tie, but I think the chances we created and the way we played was excellent and I think we deserved to win the game, but we couldn't quite get that last touch."
Morrow will be missing from San Jose's squad for Saturday's clash as he has been included in Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. national team roster for World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.
Seattle will not be without its absences, as well. Eddie Johnson also was included in Klinsmann's squad while Obafemi Martins and Mario Martinez will miss the league clash due to call-ups for Nigeria and Honduras, respectively.
With so many attacking options missing, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid could be tempted to hand a starting spot to striker David Estrada.
"He's hungry," Schmid said. "That's never an issue with David. It's about being smart. He's the kind of guy that you have to lock into his locker to make sure he doesn't over-train. It's tough for it to heal when you overdo it each day. We have to find that right balance. It's a little more difficult for him."
The Sounders are without a win through its first two league matches of the season. It looked as though they had done enough to take maximum points off of the Portland Timbers last weekend, but Rodney Wallace scored late to see the two sides split the points.