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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs San Jose Earthquakes

Sporting KC can move to the top of the Western Conference with a win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

In what was the most exciting second half of the season, Sporting Kansas City came back to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3. While the win was exciting, the biggest thing it did was it put Sporting KC into prime position in the Western Conference. Should Sporting KC win against San Jose, they'll move into a tie for the Western Conference lead with Los Angeles. However, they'll have several obstacles. For one, this is their fourth match in 12 days and the injuries are still piling up. Bernardo Anor is out with a new injury, Seth Sinovic is not likely to play and Graham Zusi and Soni Mustivar are questionable. While San Jose isn't the strongest opponent, Sporting KC will still have a tough fight.

San Jose Earthquakes

San Jose have had similar problems to Sporting KC in the injury department. Innocent, Steven Lenhart, and Matias Perez Garcia are all out for long amounts of time and it was announced this past week that defender Jordan Stewart is out for the season. Their hopes of a playoff spot are not out of reach but they need to start picking up points in order to catch Seattle or FC Dallas. They did win this past Friday against Colorado but it was their first win in six MLS matches.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Amobi Okugo

With Soni Mustivar questionable, Amobi Okugo could be looked to as a potential injury replacement or just to give him a spell during this stretch of games. We've seen it multiple times with Sporting KC midfielders (Rosell, Claros, Mustivar) needing time to adjust to the system and, should Okugo get his first start with Sporting KC tomorrow, it'll be interesting to see if he can help hold down the defense like Mustivar has while simultaneously setting up attacks in the defensive third. He did have an assist in his first minutes with Sporting KC against Toronto FC, assisting on Jacob Peterson's goal.

San Jose Earthquakes- Clarence Goodson

In San Jose's win over Colorado, Goodson was all over the place both offensively and defensively. His goal was the only score of the game and his shutdown defense helped San Jose take the lights out of the Rapids' attack down the middle. Goodson can be streaky but he is the Earthquakes' best defender and, when he is on he can become a real force in the middle. With Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber attacking down the middle, he's going to be very important to the Earthquakes' chances.

How They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

San Jose's defensive strength is in the middle with Goodson and Victor Bernardez, both of whom are solid defenders who can cause problems in the center. Out wide, however, the defense is not as staunch and, without Stewart for the rest of the season, it only appears to get worse from here. Sporting KC will need its wingers to run the attack and beat the Earthquakes through their fullbacks. The Earthquakes also struggle finishing chances and, with the way Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis and Tim Melia have been playing this season, Sporting should be able to pull a win out here.

San Jose Earthquakes

One thing the Earthquakes are fairly decent at are set pieces, scoring eight on the year out of their 24 goals. Sporting KC has a weakness of giving up set piece goals and also a tendency to foul in the final third. With the amount of matches Sporting have played recently, and the good central defense of the Earthquakes, it is very possible for San Jose to get a goal on a set piece early then sit back and frustrate Sporting KC until the home side runs out of steam.

Predictions

Lineups

Reader's Poll SKC Lineup: Melia; Dia, Ellis, Besler, Myers; Mustivar, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Nemeth, Dwyer, Zusi

Ben's Sporting KC Lineup: Melia; Medranda, Ellis, Besler, Myers; Okugo, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Peterson, Dwyer, Zusi

Scoreline

Sporting KC 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes