Programming note: Earthquakes-Sounders coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. on CSN California Plus and will be joined in progress at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
Clint Dempsey has found his scoring form for the Seattle Sounders this season, and that's just one of the tools they'll now have to do without.
The impact of the U.S. captain's departure for national team camp will be tested for the first time Saturday night as the Sounders host the especially short-handed San Jose Earthquakes, who are scrambling to adjust to World Cup absences, injury and suspension.
The Sounders (7-3-1) have a lot on their plate after Sunday's 5-0 loss in New England. Coming off a defensive nightmare in which they conceded five goals in the first 46 minutes, they will try to bounce back without Dempsey and key defenders.
"I feel like we have one of these games every single year where we get blown out, like last year in Colorado where we got crushed (5-1)," defender Brad Evans told the team's official website. "There's no excuse, we said we were ready to go and a couple of defensive lapses put us on the back foot and now all we can do is prepare for San Jose."
But Evans hasn't been preparing for this game. U.S. camp began Wednesday at Stanford, robbing the Sounders of Dempsey, Evans and defender DeAndre Yedlin.
Dempsey has eight of Seattle's 22 goals, a welcoming statistic for San Jose (2-3-4). The Earthquakes, however, will be without U.S. forward Chris Wondolowski and defender Clarence Goodson along with Honduras defender Victor Bernardez, all on World Cup leave after playing 90 minutes in Saturday's 2-1 home win over FC Dallas.
San Jose is also dealing with midfielder Shea Salinas' suspension after he was sent off against Dallas and the loss of defender Andreas Gorlitz, who underwent season-ending knee surgery after a scoreless draw with Colorado on May 7.
Brandon Barklage played right back in his fourth start of the season and is now one of the team's more senior defenders available along with Jordan Stewart.
"Guys are going to have to step up and I'm one of those guys," Barklage told the team's official website. "We have to make the most of our chances. As a unit, we're starting to click and it started in the second half of the last game. Then tonight, we found a little bit of rhythm and built off of it to stand our ground and get three points."
Since going winless in their first five matches, the Earthquakes have gone 2-1-1. They're still seeking their first road win after stomaching two losses and a draw, while Seattle is 4-2-0 at home with three straight victories.
San Jose won two of three meetings in 2013 and five of the last six, though the loss was a 4-0 final in its last trip to Seattle on May 11, 2013.
Lamar Neagle, who has three goals in four starts against San Jose, scored twice while Obafemi Martins added a stoppage-time tally. This season, both have complemented Dempsey with four goals apiece.
The Earthquakes have had no such crutch for Wondolowski, the veteran leader who has five of the club's 10 goals. Bernardez is their only other player with two.