Quakes face Sounders without Morrow, Bernardez

Quakes face Sounders without Morrow, Bernardez
March 23, 2013, 2:15 pm

The Earthquakes will be without Justin Morrow (right) when they host Seattle on Saturday night. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The San Jose Earthquakes won all three league meetings with the Seattle Sounders last year, with one coming in typical dramatic fashion.

They'll have to overcome a pair of key defensive absences if they're going to continue that success against the visiting Sounders on Saturday night.

San Jose (1-1-1) is 5-2-1 in its last eight meetings with Seattle (0-1-1), winning all three matchups last season with one coming in stunning fashion at Buck Shaw Stadium on Aug. 11.

The Earthquakes gave up the tying goal two minutes into stoppage time, but Steven Lenhart came to the rescue a minute later to clinch a 2-1 win.

Those dramatics continue to be commonplace for San Jose, which scored 40 of its league-leading 72 goals last year from the 60th minute on.

All three of the club's goals this season fall into that category, including Justin Morrow's 73rd-minute tally to rally the Quakes to a 1-1 draw at Columbus last Saturday.

Morrow isn't available to build on his heroics this weekend since he's with the United States national team for World Cup qualifying, while fellow starting defender Victor Bernardez is with Honduras.

That likely means Nana Attakora will make his season debut in central defense while veterans Ty Harden and Dan Gargan are options to fill in for Morrow on the left.

"This is going to give opportunities to other players," goalkeeper Jon Busch said. "That's why Frank and (general manager John Doyle) built this team deep and picked Nana up, and picked Ty up and picked Dan up. It's another test for us, to see where our depth is."

Another strong effort from Chris Wondolowski would also help. The forward has five goals in eight career games against Seattle, getting two last year on his way to tying the MLS single-season record of 27. However, he's found the net just once so far this season, and came up empty on four shots - two on goal - last weekend.

The Sounders are dealing with absences of their own as forward Eddie Johnson is with Morrow on the U.S. team, while midfielder Mario Martinez has joined Bernardez. Forward Obafemi Martins, acquired last week after a stint with Levante in Spain, has joined Nigeria for its World Cup qualifying matches.

Johnson has Seattle's only goal of the season, scoring in a 1-1 draw at home with Portland last Saturday.

With Johnson and Martins gone, David Estrada seems to be in line for his season debut. He had five goals in 20 games - 12 starts - last year, but he scored only once in his last 18 appearances after getting four in his first two games.

"He's hungry," coach Sigi 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."

The Sounders are on the road for the first time after going 5-9-5 last year, winning once in the past six games (1-2-3).

"Sometimes going on the road is good early in the season because it's a reminder that you're in the season. It gets you into that routine again," Schmid told the team's official website.

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