SEATTLE SOUNDERS (9-13-4, 31 points) at SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (7-8-11, 32)
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Avaya Stadium, San Jose
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Head to head: The Earthquakes lead the MLS series, 10-7-3, but lost to the Sounders earlier this year. Seattle beat San Jose, 2-0, on May 7 on goals by Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris.
Notes: The Sounders return after having not played a game in 13 days during the international break. Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) is still out, meaning the Sounders will begin their stretch run without their franchise player. The other players with national team duties are expected back for Saturday’s match. This game — known as the Heritage Cup, a nod to the Sounders’ and Earthquakes’ origins as members of the old NASL — is key in the scramble for the Western Conference playoffs. Seattle sits tied for eighth place with Vancouver, and San Jose is just a point ahead of them in seventh. Only six teams make it in (holding the sixth spot is Portland with 35 points). Interim coach Brian Schmetzer has led the team to a 3-1-2 record since taking over from Sigi Schmid. Centerback Ramon Torres, recovering from an ACL replacement last year, made his season debut in the Sounders’ last game, a 4-2 loss to Portland. Torres saw action in one of Panama’s two games during the break. He played 60 minutes and said this week he’s getting closer to being at full strength. ... The Earthquakes made a shakeup in their organization by firing general manager John Doyle late in August. A big reason for the change is an aging roster that has struggled offensively. San Jose is last in the league in scoring with 26 goals and last in the league in shots on goal at 3.6 per game. The team has been in a funk of late, going 0-3-1 in all competitions, including a 4-3 loss to Liga MX defending champions CF Pachuca last Saturday in a friendly in San Jose. Veteran forward Chris Wondolowski leads the team with nine goals, and it’s by a wide margin. No other player has more than three.
Next: The Sounders host Vancouver on Aug. 17.
Darrin Beene, staff writer