Would you rather face the toughest competition first or last?
For the San Jose Earthquakes, their MLS is Back Tournament starts with a date against the defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC on Friday, July 10 (6:00 p.m. PT/ESPN). Seattle has definitely earned the reputation of being a juggernaut since entering MLS as an expansion side in 2009. Sounders FC has reached the MLS Cup final in three of the last four seasons and has never failed to reach the postseason in club history.
The rivalry between San Jose and Seattle has been topsy-turvy. The Quakes won just two of their first seven meetings all-time (2-4-1) but then dominated the series between 2012-15 (8-2-2). Since 2016, San Jose is 0-5-3, earning just one point in their last five meetings overall.
The lopsided figures, however, may not tell the complete story between these two sides. Last year, San Jose thoroughly outplayed their counterparts in both matchups and wound up with just a single point between them. On April 24, a red-hot Shea Salinas scored twice to put the Quakes up 2-0. The Earthquakes conceded twice in a span of three minutes and were forced to settle for the draw. Then in the penultimate match of the season, San Jose outshot their counterparts 23-9, before an against-the-run-of-play stoppage-time winner by Seattle forward Jordan Morris sunk the home side.
Prior to the stoppage of play in March, Sounders FC held a record of 1-0-1 following a win against Chicago and a draw with Columbus, both at home. Morris, a homegrown product, leads the team with two goals while his U.S. National Team teammate Cristian Roldan has two assists.
For San Jose, only time will tell what sort of lineup head coach Matias Almeyda will trot out on Friday. Chris Wondolowski, the league’s all-time leading scorer, has not been a first-choice striker for the Quakes so far in 2020, playing 24 and 26 minutes in the two games, respectively. However, the 37-year-old Wondolowski is coming off a 2019 season in which he finished with the third-highest goals-per-90-minute average of his career. He is also the highest scorer against Seattle in MLS history with 11 career tallies against them.
With fewer days in between matches and teams now allowed to use five substitutes instead of three, it’s a fair assumption to expect more squad rotation than before. Forwards Wondolowski, Andy Rios, Danny Hoesen and even 16-year-old Cade Cowell will likely all play a role at some point. The Earthquakes have the benefit of a relatively full and healthy squad, minus left back Marcos Lopez, who will be out due to a recent appendectomy.
Fans who acted quickly were able to secure an RSVP for the drive-in viewing parties at Earthquakes Stadium. Due to high demand, both viewing parties in the 7UP Epicenter and Tailgate Lot were fully reserved within days of last Friday’s announcement.