The San Jose Earthquakes will play a pair of matches in the Pacific Northwest when they face Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers on Saturday, July 31 and Wednesday, August 4, respectively. San Jose will meet Seattle for the second time in 2021, after falling 1-0 to Sounders FC at PayPal Park on May 12.
The Quakes are unbeaten in four straight matches for the first time since 2019, having earned points in road matches against three of the most in-form teams in the Western Conference, and at home in 1-1 draw against Houston Dynamo FC on Saturday night.
San Jose aims to build on this stretch of positive results when they enter Saturday’s contest at Lumen Field. The Sounders will look to reset after falling 3-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Saturday’s loss marked Sounders FC first loss at home since September 20, 2020, seeing their regular-season unbeaten streak at Lumen Field conclude at 14 matches.
Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda believes his side can bring back a positive result from Lumen Field. Looking back at their first encounter in May, Almeyda says there were enough chances to upset the Western Conference leaders.
“I always watch past games, and we played well in that game,” Almeyda said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. “We had chances to tie the game and possibly even win with the opportunities that we had. But we also made mistakes in the defense, and Seattle is a team that does not forgive.”
The Earthquakes held Sounders FC to a single shot on target that night, in which visitors were able to capitalize on. Seattle required a wonder goal from Cristian Roldan to exit PayPal Park with three points.
Almeyda reiterates time and time again that the Quakes need to give 110 percent, and this remains true ahead of their visit to Washington in which they face an unforgiving offense in Seattle. The Quakes will need a strategy to contain Seattle’s attacking players, led by Raúl Ruidíaz, the current MLS leader in goals (11) in 2021.
“I think these are players that make a difference,” Almeyda said about Ruidíaz. “It’s difficult because they always have something hidden. If [Ruidíaz] is the leading goal scorer, it’s because he has been unstoppable. We don’t just focus on one player; we focus on their entire operation which is really good. In the end, Ruidíaz is the one who completes the great system that Seattle has.”
Seattle will be without Cristian Roldan, who is away with the United States Men’s National Team, along with Jackson Yueill for Concacaf Gold Cup. Despite missing key players, Almeyda says that Sounders FC excel in making changes in their system to account for those absences.
“They made changes in their system throughout the season, and it has favored them because they have become even better than they were last year,” Almeyda said. “They can change players, play their younger players but they will still maintain their system and continue to win. That speaks well of the work that is being done in Seattle. The coach can count on many of their players to be important for the team, and that is why they are in first place.”
Goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski continues to gain valuable experience and is already at career highs this season in games played (15), games started (15) and minutes played (2790). Marcinkowski, who has experienced highs and lows since taking the starting role as goalkeeper, adds that a key to earning positive results against Seattle and throughout the remainder of the season is to be mentally locked in.
“I think the confidence is really high in the locker room.” Marcinkowski said. “I think we have been playing well. The results will come. One thing Matias always focuses on is not just focusing on results. We want to focus on how we play and the matter in which we play.
“I think the confidence is really high. We’re playing much better than we were. We’re continuing to grow as a team and as a unit.”
Kickoff at Lumen Park is set for 2 p.m. PT and the match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.