The '09 Sounders vs. the '08 Earthquakes - an analysis

A common belief among Sounders fans is that our team is better prepared for MLS than previous expansion teams. A common belief among fans of various other MLS teams is that the Sounders will very much struggle this year, just like previous expansion teams. I fall into the former camp, and I’m going to defend it. I’ll look at how Seattle’s opening day lineup matches up against San Jose’s in 2008, compare the starters at each position, and quantify which team is stronger.

First, the lineups. The projected opening day lineup for Seattle and San Jose’s opening day lineup last year. (NOTE – for any eagle-eyed Quakes fans, yes, Shea Salinas did start the first game at forward, but he really wasn’t a striker so I put Glinton, who mostly started during the beginning of the year.)

San Jose: Joe Cannon, Jason Hernandez, Ryan Cochrane, Nick Garcia, James Riley, Ronnie O'Brien, Ramiro Corrales, Ned Grabavoy, Ivan Guerrero, Kei Kamara, Shea SalinasSeattle (projected): Kasey Keller, Nate Sturgis, Jhon Hurtado, Tyrone Marshall, James Riley, Sebastien Le Toux, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Sanna Nyassi, Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero

Keeper – Joe Cannon vs. Kasey Keller. To be honest this is a really tough one. Cannon was (and still is) one of the best keepers in MLS. Keller is the best American goalkeeper ever. But age and the fact that Keller hasn’t played competitively since last May probably make this a toss-up, though I'm sure Sounders fans will disagree. EVEN

Left back – Jason Hernandez vs. Nate Sturgis. Hernandez is one of the best young up and coming defenders you’ve never heard of, and was a real bright spot for the Quakes. Sturgis was a similar rising prospect a couple years ago, but until he proves that he’s more durable than a tower of Jenga blocks, he’s not at the same level. SAN JOSE

Center back – Tyrone Marshall vs. Nick Garcia. Both veterans on the downsides of their careers. Garcia wins because of being younger, more in his prime, and having a prime-r prime anyways. SAN JOSE

Center back – Ryan Cochrane vs. Jhon Hurtado. As Hurtado has yet to suit up for the Sounders, this is a bit tricky, but Cochrane just was never anything special. SEATTLE

Right back – James Riley vs. James Riley. Riley was a solid MLS player who won’t make any all-star teams, but is a reliable option in defense and a threat going forward. Of course, so is Riley. EVEN

Left wing – Ivan Guererro vs. Sebastien Le Toux. The two are actually very different styles of player – Guererro more defensive, Le Toux more offensive. I’m going to give this to Seba, but it’s close. SEATTLE

Center mid – Osvaldo Alonso vs. Ned Grabavoy. Alonso is young and unproven at the MLS level. But Ned Grabavoy has just never been very good. SEATTLE

Center mid – Brad Evans vs. Ramiro Corrales. Both are above average, yet somewhat unheralded players in the center of the park. This is basically a draw as well. EVEN

Right wing – Ronnie O’Brien vs. Sanna Nyassi. Sorry, Sounders fans. Nyassi may be cheaper and have a brighter future, but last year O’Brien was a huge part of San Jose’s attack and one of the only reasons they’d ever score goals at all. SAN JOSE

Forward - Gavin Glinton vs. Nate Jaqua. Once upon a time Glinton was a decent player. That time was not last year. This is no contest. SEATTLE

Forward - Kei Kamara vs. Fredy Montero. Hahahahahahaha SEATTLE

Totals: San Jose 3, Even 3, Seattle 5


This could be even more lopsided, really. If the Sounders come out of Argentina with a new left back, they could win that category, and when Freddy Ljungberg returns to play center-mid, that’ll gain another category. And when Pete Vagenas comes back from his injury... well, actually, that'll probably make us worse. Anyways, we’re quite a few steps ahead of where San Jose was last year. As I outlined a couple posts below, San Jose garnered just 10 points in their first 10 games. With a much better overall squad, Seattle should expect more success during the start of their inaugural season.


Anonymous said...

Ronnie O'Brien? Really? R U sure? Is he on the team still?

John said...

He's a free agent now.

Ness said...

As the post title says, I'm comparing the current Sounders with the '08 Earthquakes. O'Brien is unsigned now and not with the team, but he was in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Nice Comparison, I would of done a bench comparison as well as I think the depth is Seattle is a lot better than it was in San Jose last year. We have both Zakuani and Ianni coming of the bench not to mention Brad Evans when Freddie is starting. San Jose's bench last year was not nearly as deep.

Anonymous said...

San Jose's strength last year was its defense, and that was with an anemic offense at the start of the year. On paper I would definitely give the nod to San Jose's 08 defense over Seattle's. If the Sounders can't produce offensively, it could be a long season.

Anonymous said...

Nice comparisons, however, to make the playoffs Seattle is probably going to have to be better than San Jose's 09 team, not their 08 team.

Anonymous said...

Isn't O'Brien gonna end up playing for the Portland Timbers? I thought that he looked a shell of his former self last season and not worth the nod in your analysis. Finally, I think that an analysis of the head coaches is in order. Frank Yallop was a broken man, looking to put the pieces back together again. Schmid is riding on a high note, having won the double with two different teams...

Without Huckerby, SJE would have been worse than even LAG last season. I think that to compare the 09 Sounders FC with the 08 SJE is just not realistic.

I'm willing to bet that SJE will be much better this year. I'm also willing to bet that KC, Dallas, LAG, and Colorado will suck ass this season, thus allowing SSFC to waltz into the playoffs. Thanks guys!

Ness said...

"I’ll look at how Seattle’s opening day lineup matches up against San Jose’s in 2008"

The Quakes made a bunch of midseason changes. Among them was bringing in Huckerby. The Sounders will likewise make midseason changes. Since we don't know what those are, I was using the start of the season as a starting point. To compare the Quakes that ended the season with the Sounders that start this season is silly, as there will be roster turnover.

The summary, as most of you would agree with, is that the Sounders will be better prepared to start their expansion season than San Jose was, and as such should expect more success in the first third-to-half of the season.