Earthquakes-Sounders Preview

The Associated Press

The Seattle Sounders haven't entered a match trailing another team in the Western Conference standings for four months.

That changes Wednesday night when they host the San Jose Earthquakes, but a victory will make the experience as brief as possible.

Seattle (13-7-2), now a point behind surging Real Salt Lake with two matches in hand, conceded the top spot in the West with Saturday's 2-1 loss in Utah. The Sounders fell behind on two Salt Lake goals in the first 12 minutes of the second half before substitute Chad Barrett got them within one in the 72nd minute.

Returning to CenturyLink Field could quickly turn things around for Seattle, loser of four of six league matches. Including U.S. Open Cup games, the Sounders have outscored opponents 35-12 in 15 home contests.

The latest was a 6-0 win over Chicago in the Open Cup semifinals last Wednesday. Barrett also scored in that match, and the veteran has given coach Sigi Schmid plenty of depth in the attack along with Andy Rose and Kenny Cooper, who both scored twice.

"We have a bunch of players on this team that could start for any team in this league," Barrett told the club's official website after the Salt Lake loss. "It's tough when you're not playing games, but in that Open Cup game you saw what Andy Rose could do. You saw what Cooper could do with good minutes. And it keeps the guys that are starting on their toes because there are guys ready to take their spots."

The berth into the final along with their contention for the Supporters' Shield and strong chances for a playoff berth present the club with opportunities for a season filled with hardware. However, the Sounders have been shut out three times during their 2-4-0 stretch.

"We have a chance to do a lot of special things this year and we have to recommit ourselves and rededicate ourselves to wanting to do that," Schmid said. "I think we are a committed team and I think we are dedicated to those goals and we've got to realize that this can be a very special year. ... It's a matter of us now grabbing ahold of that. But I'm confident the team is ready to grab ahold of that."

San Jose (6-9-6) was on the wrong end of a similarly lopsided contest the last time out, falling 5-0 in Saturday's home game against FC Dallas for the worst defeat in franchise history.

The Earthquakes had gone 2-0-2 in their previous four, including a 1-0 home win over Seattle on Aug. 2 behind Yannick Djalo's 42nd-minute strike. Chris Wondolowski assisted and has three goals and three assists in six matches since returning from the World Cup.

Two league meetings this season have been split with the home team winning each 1-0. The Sounders needed a shootout to defeat San Jose in a U.S. Open Cup match in Seattle on June 24.

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