Osvaldo Alonso

MLS Preview: Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes

  • Osvaldo Alonso to return for Seattle
  • Earthquakes 2-3-0 since Frank Yallop’s departure
  • Seattle won last meeting, 4-0

The up-and-down season of the Seattle Sounders hit another trough last weekend in Vancouver, their 2-0 defeat at BC Place their first MLS loss to the Whitecaps. This week, however, the roller coaster looks set to climb once more, Sigi Schmid’s side in Santa Clara on Saturday to face an Earthquakes team they beat 4-0 at CenturyLink on May 11.

While the shift of venue should have San Jose hope (the Earthquakes are 4-1-4 at home), their results since the ouster of Frank Yallop shouldn’t. Though the Mark Watson era started with a win at Colorado, they played up a man for 72 minutes. In the four games that have followed, San Jose’s only points came from their remarkable comeback against the Galaxy at Stanford Stadium. Recently losses at Chicago and New England only reaffirm the notion that their coaching change has done little to curb the team’s struggles.

The Gold Cup isn’t helping matters. Chris Wondolowski is posting hat tricks for the United States. Marvin Chavez bagged a goal in Honduras’s opener. Nana Attakora’s living through Canada’s disappointment. Add Clarence Goodson to the list, and San Jose is tied with Real Salt Lake and Toronto for most absences for this year’s competition, even if Goodson has yet to suit up for the Earthquakes since moving back to Major League Soccer.

Seattle’s roster if Gold Cup-free, but with Obafemi Martins, Sharlie Joseph, and Steve Zakuani set to miss the game with injuries, starting a first choice team continues to be a problem for the Sounders. They’ll get their best player back, however, with Osvaldo Alonso expected to play for the first time since June 1. That will solve Seattle’s problems in central midfield, but with their top scoring threat (Martins) out, it’s worth wondering if the stars will ever align to keep a number of key, fragile parts healthy at the same time.

Were Seattle closer to the top of the conference, that would be less of an issue, as Schmid could manage his squad with the idea of preserving his veterans near the end of the season, cruising into the playoffs while recharging his core. Without the U.S. Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League to worry about, Seattle’s deep quad should may still be able to do that, but unless that process involves a quicker climb from their seventh place hole, the Sounders will be pushing their players in important games through at least the end of October.

To put Seattle’s plight in perspective, for as many troubles as San Jose have had this season, the Earthquakes are only three points behind the Sounders. While Seattle has played four fewer games — a huge number — the thin gap between them and a team few are talking about for a playoff spot highlights the work that remains They have the games in hand to make up their five-point gap on fifth place Vancouver, yet Seattle are quickly descending to a place that makes those games vital.

Losing to San Jose — allowing the Earthquakes to become another competitor for a playoff spot — will only complicate life for the Sounders.

More: San Jose have allowed 19 shots on goal in their last two games … Seattle have scored twice in their last four road games, both goals coming at Chivas USA … Wondolowski is the only Earthquakes player who has scored against the Sounders this season (two games).

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.