Fooch's Note: Obviously this is a San Francisco 49ers blog, but given how big a deal Levi's Stadium is, I want to have a little bit of coverage on some of the other big sporting events that take place there. It won't be extensive, but rather a basic preview and recap, along with notable news as it develops. This content will be housed in a Levi's Stadium Events group.
Levi's Stadium -- the brand spanking new home of our San Francisco 49ers -- will get a test run this Saturday, as Major League Soccer clubs San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC turn the field into a pitch. The stadium grounds crew is well on their way to getting the field ready for the match:
This will be the second of four meetings between these clubs this year, with the Sounders having won both matches thus far. The first was a May 17 MLS match at Century Link Field, ending 1-0 in favor of Seattle after a ridiculous Obafemi Martins goal of the year candidate. The second match was an extra-time thriller in the fifth round of the US Open Cup on June 24 at Starfire Sports Complex in Seattle area suburb Tukwila. After being deadlocked 1-1 after 120 minutes, the Quakes fell 4-1 in a penalty shootout.
Both teams were founded in 1974 -- sort of. Both have been through multiple iterations, technically different franchises using the same name.
The Earthquakes were in the NASL from 1974 until the league's collapse in 1984. They resumed play in the WSA from 1985-1988, when that league, too, folded. A new club was founded as one of the charter members of MLS in 1994.
The Sounders played in the NASL from 1974-1983. The second coming of the squad was a USL first division team from 1994-2008, before that franchise folded upon Seattle being awarded an MLS franchise. Much of that team, from owner Adrian Hanauer (current GM and minority owner), manager Brian Schmetzer (current assistant coach) and players carried over to the MLS team.
The Earthquakes designed a new crest and uniforms to honor their 40th anniversary, while the Sounders are wearing a 40th anniversary patch on their uniforms for specific games this season -- including all matches against San Jose.
San Jose is last in the Western Conference with 20 points (5-8-5), though they did win their last MLS match against the Chicago Fire 5-1. Their last match was a respectable 4-3 loss in an international friendly against EUFA Champion's League runner up Atletico Madrid.
The Goonies are lead by Mark Watson, a Canadian in his first role as a head coach. He previously was an assistant the Canadian national team, Charleston Battery and the Canadian U20 squad. His playing career saw him spend lots of time in North America, as well as stops in Sweden and England.
Seattle currently sits atop the Supporter's Shield (finishing the season with the most MLS points) race, and is aspiring to win a domestic treble by combining that trophy with winning MLS Cup (playoffs) and the US Open Cup (tournament ran by US Soccer). They just came off a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the LA Galaxy this past Saturday. The played English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur the week before, resulting in a 3-3 draw.
At the helm of the Rave Green is Sigi Schmid, a German-American in his 15th season as an MLS head coach. Prior to his current six-year stretch with the Sounders, he was the boss with the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy. He won MLS Cup and Supporter's Shield once with each of those sides, and has raises four US Open Cups -- once with the Galaxy and three times with the Sounders. He also spent two stints leading the United States U20 squad, and began his coaching career running the program at his alma mater, UCLA, for 19 years.
Heritage Cup is an extremely minor piece of hardware, not really taken seriously by anyone. But, since you want to know all about it... Currently, these are the only two teams competing for the Heritage Cup, which is a supporter-run competition open to MLS teams that carried over their name from the NASL. The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are eligible, but their supporters declined to join until more former NASL clubs join MLS to help better differentiate Heritage Cup from Cascadia Cup (open to only the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps).
The current format only the counts second and third MLS matches between the clubs in seasons where there is an imbalanced schedule, to evenly split home field advantage. This means that the Sounders previous wins in Seattle this year do not count toward awarding the 2014 cup. The Sounders currently lead the cup series 3-2.
In other rivalry news, Earthquakes owner Dave Kaval is apparently considering making this an annual affair, specifically noting that it would add to the rivalry of the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. This is ridiculous reasoning, of course, but would certainly help put a few extra bucks in the Quakes' pockets.
As for furthering the rivalry, I'm not sure I understand San Jose's strategy. The Sounders largest supporter group -- Emerald City Supporters -- is boycotting this match due to inflation of ticket prices at the new venue, not receiving a standard discount for traveling support seen elsewhere in MLS. While ECS has been painted by some as not understanding that this is a one-time, unique event (including this author), new information has come up since the boycott. Apparently, San Jose's supporter groups got discount ticket prices that ECS did not.
The perception is that the Earthquakes sought to capitalize on a well-traveled ECS. That backfired, and if they continue to boycott future matches, you lose a massive component of the in-stadium rivalry feel that Kaval seeks. Seeing the reaction on the faces of a big, full section of away supporters when their team is scored on -- or, even better, loses -- is an enjoyably part if attending a rivalry match.
The Sounders sent two players to Brazil -- Clint Dempsey and Deandre Yedlin -- both of whom played for the United States. The Earthquakes also sent two players: Chris Wondolowski (USA) and Victor Bernardez (Honduras).
San Jose has nine other players that have appeared internationally during their careers: Jon Busch, Sam Cronin, Clarence Goodson and Alan Gordon (USA), Yannick Djaló (Portugal), Shaun Francis (Jamaica), Andreas Görlitz (Germany), Atiba Harris (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and Walter Martínez (Honduras).
Seattle has 11 other players on their roster with international caps: Chad Barrett, Kenny Cooper, Brad Evans, Marcus Hahnamann and Chad Marshall (USA), Osvaldo Alonso (Cuba), Leo Gonzalez (Costa Rica), Obafemi martins (Nigera), Marco Pappa (Guatemala), Gonzalo Pineda (Mexico) and Djimi Trare (Mali).