Sporting KC @ SJ Earthquakes
Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 9:30 PM CT
38 The Spot | SKCTV | MLS Live
Sporting Kansas City are currently embroiled in a battle to make the MLS Cup Playoffs. They sit in sixth position, right above the red line, with four games to go. Two of those four games will be played against the San Jose Earthquakes. Unlike last season, Sporting doesn't have any games in hand on their opponents (though they wasted them last year anyways). It's San Jose who has only played 28 games to Sporting's 30. Sporting are sitting on 40 points, compared to 34 for San Jose. The Earthquakes would need to win those games in hand to draw even.
The good news for San Jose is they have absolutely dominated SKC as of late. They are winners of three straight league games against SKC, including the 5-0 beating that was handed out last August which was the turning point in SKC's season. On top of that, Sporting KC are currently riding a 18-game winless streak when playing on the road against San Jose (0-13-5 - including the playoffs) and are on a 12-game winless streak on the road in 2016 in league play (0-8-4).
In 2016 these teams have only met once, a 1-0 San Jose victory in California that was marred in controversy. Dom Dwyer was brought down inside the box without a penalty being called only to have San Jose promptly draw a penalty of their own on the other end of the pitch for the games lone goal. Sporting will be looking for revenge and they may be meeting San Jose at just the right time to change their bad fortune. San Jose has the worst record in MLS since May 20, 2016. They have won just twice over that 17-game stretch (2-5-10) including a 1-2-5 record at home. Lets get to the injuries and lineups.
– Sporting KC: None
– Earthquakes: None
Suspended Next Yellow Card:
– Sporting KC: Jimmy Medranda, Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza
– Earthquakes: Fatai Alashe, Anibal Godoy, Jordan Stewart
– Sporting KC:
OUT: Justin Mapp (left calf strain), Lawrence Olum (abdominal injury), Chance Myers (thigh strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Graham Zusi (lower leg strain)
OUT: Marc Pelosi (chronic tendinitis in left knee), Mark Sherrod (left knee surgery), Clarence Goodson (back injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Anibal Godoy (left hamstring injury), Kip Colvey (right ankle injury), Darwin Ceren (left quad injury)
Sporting Kansas City's Last Five: D/W/L/D/D (Six Points)
San Jose's Last Five: L/D/L/D/D (Three Points)
– Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer(14), Jacob Peterson/Benny Feilhaber (6)
– Earthquakes: Chris Wondolowski (10), Quincy Amarikwa/Simon Dawkins (3)
Starting XI Prediction:
Abdul-Salaam – Coelho – Besler – Medranda
Feilhaber – Mustivar – Espinoza
Peterson – Dwyer – Davis
Rest of the 18: Kann, Rubio, Opara, Sinovic, Hallisey, Nagamura, Zusi
I know Peter Vermes hates to tinker with a lineup, no matter how successful (or unsuccessful) it is. That said, Nuno Coelho or Ike Opara would be my choices to stick next to Matt Besler over Kevin Ellis. I know I'm not the only one who get nervous when Ellis is forced to start. He should be back out of the 18 and sitting behind Lawrence Olum on the center back depth chart.
My guess is Tim Melia gets to start again, even though I thought Kann played admirably in his absence. And up top it likely stays the same with Jacob Peterson having a career year and Brad Davis starting by default because Graham Zusi cannot stay healthy (and Justin Mapp has never been healthy). Now if Peterson can just figure out how to score on the road (all six of his goals, a career high, have come at home). The entire midfield, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Jimmy Medranda and Dom Dwyer should stay the same, as they are the only consistent players this year.
On the other side of the ball, San Jose has been very out of form lately. Wondolowski's 10 goals seem good until you realize he scored seven of them in the first eight games, back before April had even ended. He has just three goals in the last 16 games and he's not getting any help. San Jose is dead last in the league in goals per game (.96) and shots on goal per game (3.5). They are also 19th in shots per game (11.6) compared to SKC which are first (14.8 -- though KC is just 12th in getting them on goal). It won't help SJ that KC is the best in the league at preventing shots, allowing just 8.9 per game.
All that said, Dominic Kinnear, the head coach of the Earthquakes, seems to have Sporting KC's number. Whether he's coaching San Jose more recently, or the Houston Dynamo before that, he's found a way to stifle Sporting. As the head coach of the Dynamo, Kinnear has eliminated SKC from the playoffs three times (while they only returned the favor once). A loss Saturday won't eliminate Sporting, but it will sure hurt.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
I want to pick Sporting to break this streak, but it just don't feel like things are clicking quite well enough. If it was a home game (like it will be on Decision Day) then I think they could do it. But for some reason the road has not been kind to this team and even less so when they travel to San Jose or play a Dominic Kinnear coached team. It seems Wondo always finds a way to score on KC and Shea Salinas has had their number as well. Dwyer and Peterson are playing well together and should find a way to score to keep it level. Let's just hope I'm completely wrong and Kansas City returns the 5-0 beating they were handed last season.