Sporting KC look to continue a 16 game unbeaten run at home as the 8th place San Jose Earthquakes come to town on Wednesday night. I got with Nerdy Gales over at Center Line Soccer to talk about the match-up.
1) The Blue Testament: San Jose was just able to end a six game winless against streak Colorado last week, but are now in 8th place. Are there brighter days ahead? Are fans still hopeful of a playoff run?
Nerdy Gales: Given that the Earthquakes beat the only team with a worse record than themselves in the Western Conference, then most fans are still to cautious with their assumptions that the team has turned any kind of corner.
On the positive side, the arrival of Panamanian national team midfielder Anibal Godoy provides a box-to-box player that can transfer the ball up field from the Quakes experienced defense to the forwards. Marc Pelosi, a local kid who came back through the Liverpool FC academy, has found favor over Tommy Thompson recently. Kinnear alluded to the fact that with Perez Garcia on the field Wondo has to play farther back, and with Pelosi on the field Wondo is freer to roam up field. This is the closest I’ve seen to an explanation for not starting Wondo up front, and I’ll be watching closely if Pelosi sees any playing time and how that affects Wondo’s movement.
On the negative side, two DPs are missing for the Earthquakes swing east to Kansas City and Washington DC. Perez Garcia aggravated a hamstring and didn’t travel and Innocent is still rehabbing his torn meniscus. In addition, while Goodson is back on defense (phew), they will be absent Jordan Stewart, who went down in the Rapids game.
2) TBT: Quincy Amarikwa failed to score a goal and struggled to even get on the field for the Fire this season. He was traded back in June and now has 4 goals in his 6 starts with the Quakes. What has been the key to his quick turnaround?
NG: Cue a generic Frank Yallop jibe here. Seriously, I’m surprised to hear that – I haven’t checked on Amarikwa’s Chicago stats. Amarikwa has been very effective and fun to watch. He’s a very athletic player, and super feisty. I might have argued that his turnaround was due to defenders being more concerned with Wondolowski, but three of Quincy’s goals came when Wondo was at this summer’s Gold Cup tournament with the USMNT.
It’s a new look for the Quakes this season with Dominic Kinnear at the helm. Wondo remains the leading scorer with the club, despite starting in midfield with Jahn, Sherrod or Amarikwa up top. Speed merchant Fatai Alashe has had a typical rookie season (fast, but inconsistent), and will probably be back in support after sitting out his red card suspension. However, with Pelosi gaining favor, the Quakes might have a triple-threat that will stretch opposing defenses and result in more goals. I’m proposing the catchall moniker "box of chocolates formation" – you never know what you’re going to get.
3) TBT: The Earthquakes just lost defender Jordan Stewart for the season due to an Achilles injury, something we are familiar with here in KC.... but I digress. How big of a blow is this to the team? Who will have to step up in his absence?
NG: Ugh – that was very tough to see. One of those sickening off the ball injuries – think Beckham in Milan, or Michael Owen in the 2006 World Cup. Why are English players particularly susceptible to this kind of injury? I digress.In terms of team morale it’s devastating – Geez is a huge presence in the locker room, full of banter, and always geeing up the team. On the pitch, his high soccer IQ will be missed – he’s a very poised player, shrugs off pressure easily and is very effective in transitioning the ball forward. In the long term, you have to wonder if at the age of 33 he’ll ever be able to come back. If anyone can, Stewart can – he’s in great shape and very determined, so the odds are in his favor.Shaun Johnson is the most likely replacement for Stewart – a similar player that can take the ball up field, but who can be prone to off-moments. He has the opportunity to stake his claim at the position for the rest of the season. Another option is the Portuguese Paulo Renato, who appears to be more effective farther back in the defense. I suspect that Kinnear might use these two defenders interchangeably depending on the score line.Failing that, Earthquakes legend Ramiro Corrales will be inducted onto the club’s Hall of Fame at the September 5th game against the Philadelphia Union – maybe we should get his kit ready?
Nerdy Gale Predictions:
Sporting KC 1-1 San Jose Earthquakes
Wynne – Bernardez – Goodson – Francis
Nyassi – Godoy – Alashe– Salinas
Wondo – Amarikwa
1) Center Line Soccer: After four games in ten days, the Sporting KC squad must be verging on exhaustion, so how will they muster the energy to take on the Earthquakes? What's the latest on Zusi -- will he be available to relieve the pressure on Wednesday night?
Cody Bradley: On Tuesday at training Peter Vermes said he had not decided on Zusi quite yet. It is possible he will be available, but would likely be on the bench, if so. It sounded like he may even be partially basing that decision on the status of other players who have picked up minor injuries. Soni Mustivar seems to be one of those players and is questionable with a groin strain.
So yes, there is some fatigue. Feilhaber, Mustivar and Ellis have gone the full 90 the last three matches (Nemeth has as well except for one sub for 15 minutes) and then there is Besler who has gone the full 90 the last 23 matches. Somebody has to be rested in this match, would imagine.
But to answer the question of how they will muster the energy, Sporting Fit is the motto of this team. So make no mistake.. the XI that PV throws out there will be ready to do their job. He has used his substitutions very well this year and if somebody is dragging ass they will be swiftly replaced. The depth of this team continues to surprise every week. So despite the busy schedule, Sporting KC will be confident they can pull out a result.
2) CLS: I just read your stat from Sunday's amazing comeback win over Vancouver -- that with former Earthquakes player Jacob "The Answer" Peterson on the pitch, SKC were 4-1 up, having been 0-2 down with him on the bench. How did he end up with that nickname, and is he (or not)?
CB: Give me a second while I celebrate the fact that somebody actually asked a question about Jake.
****Whips..... nae naes****
Jacob Peterson is that guy that every team needs. Ideally he wouldn't start. But he has an insane work ethic, he will kill himself for the team and he can play anywhere on the field. Over the last few years, Sporting KC has been ravaged by injuries and international call ups. Any time there has been a question about what Vermes would do, he has always had The Answer. Need a fullback? Jake was the answer. Need a midfielder? A winger.... a striker even!? Jake was the answer. He can be a defensive substitution, or if PV needs fresh legs getting forward, he has The Answer I tell you! He is great in the clubhouse and Dom Dwyer can be heard at anytime chanting "JAKE JAKE JAKE JAKE"!
But in all honesty, there are PLENTY of people in KC who are tired of the guy. As I said, a team trying to win trophies wouldn't really want him to start every game. But Peterson has seen a lot of minutes up front this year. He's failed to finish a few chances and well, he isn't Graham Zusi, which is frustrating to some fans.
I personally love having him around. He will do something noteworthy every game whether it's a weird assist or he may get mad and let fly every obscenity under the sun. It is unfortunate the team has needed so much from him, but he is a great back up.
3. CLS: Sporting KC has three and four games in hand over the Whitecaps and the Galaxy respectively, so you must be feeling really good about the run for the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield. SKCs final game of the season is against the Galaxy - are they your biggest competition for the title(s)?
CB: Yes, times are good right now! Sporting KC have the US Open Cup Final on the Sept 30 and still remain in the hunt for both MLS trophies as well. That being said, it is still an uphill battle for the Supporters' Shield. Two-thirds of the remaining schedule will be played away from home. Vancouver has a fairly easy schedule to finish the season and the Galaxy have obviously become more even dangerous with the additions of Steven Gerrard and Giovanni Dos Santos.
SKC are entering a pivotal few matches, but that final game against the Galaxy at Sporting Park is going to be absolutely huge either way. I would say LA is the biggest threat to take the SS and the winner could very well be decided that final day of the season. Then of course, anything can happen in the playoffs. But right now, just the prospect of contending for all three trophies gives me the butterflies.
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Amadou Dia, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Amobi Okugo, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson
Sporting Kansas City 1 - 1 San Jose Earthquakes