SJ Earthquakes @ Sporting KC
Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 7:30 PM CT
Fox Sports KC | MLS Live
Something is going on in the MLS Western Conference in 2017. The defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders are sitting on a single point through two games. The LA Galaxy, usually a perennial powerhouse have zero points. But at the top of the conference are the Portland Timbers, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes. They are all a perfect 2-0-0 with all six points. They also all missed the playoffs in 2016.
Sporting Kansas City are stuck in the middle. They are off to a great start defensively having racked up two clean sheets through two games but they have also failed to score in either game as well. In fact, the last time they scored during an MLS game was against these very Earthquakes that are coming to town on Saturday. A 2-0 victory to close out the 2016 season.
Now the Earthquakes may have been a bit lucky to get to 2-0-0 as they did start last weekend’s game against Vancouver by getting down by two goals quickly. Then after the sending off of goalkeeper David Ousted the Quakes rallied back by scoring three straight goals to take home all three points. I’m not sure Sporting KC could have done that. To be fair to them, Dallas parked the bus hard against them last weekend, but they are definitely struggling in the final third.
Looking at the statistics and things look bright for SKC. They have gone 10 straight games at
Sporting Park Children’s Mercy Park without a loss (7-0-3) and the Earthquakes have only won on the road once in their last 19 games (1-11-7). It gets better. Sporting KC have won 11 of 12 home meetings against San Jose (minus that 5-0 drubbing in 2015).
One bright spot for the Quakes against Sporting has been Chris Wondolowski. In his 13 career regular season games against Kansas City he has bagged eight goals.
San Jose’s Offseason
The Earthquakes don’t appear to have made a ton of changes on the surface. They signed Panamanian defender Harold Cummings in the offseason but he’s likely to remain out. They have added some offensive pieces in Marcos Urena and Jahmir “Albanian Messi” Hyka. Urena has gotten both starts with Hyka coming off the bench so far. Both have looked decent and seem to have opened up the game for Wondo and Anibal Godoy going forward.
OUT: Diego Rubio (torn ACL)
QUESTIONABLE: Cameron Iwasa (hamstring strain), Erik Palmer-Brown (ankle sprain), Saad Abdul-Salaam (thigh sprain)
OUT: Quincy Amarikwa (knee surgery), Marvell Wynne (heart abnormality), Marc Pelosi (left knee injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Harold Cummings (sports hernia injury)
Sporting KC - None
San Jose - None
Starting XI Predictions
Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Juliao, Mustivar, Blessing, Ellis, Salloi, Saad
For the Starting XI in game three it seems likely Vermes will make no changes. He values consistency and probably won’t tweak anything until after the upcoming FIFA break. If there was going to be a change my gut tells me it’s Latif Blessing getting the start over Jimmy Medranda. I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen but my guess is Vermes will bring him off the bench for another late spark like last week.
In the fan voting Blessing overwhelming got more votes than Medranda to start. I still think he’s an option from the bench first and foremost.
All other voting matches my above predictions but something tells me Erik Palmer-Brown or Kevin Ellis are going to get some minutes from Ike Opara soon. Ike, as any Sporting KC fan knows, is injury prone. Not overworking the big man could help keep him healthy longer. Ike had his healthiest season in 2016 but still only had 25 appearances and 16 starts.
As for how this game will play out, it seems like teams will keep playing very conservatively when they travel to Kansas City. With FC Dallas putting out a lineup half full of Homegrown players last week and Sporting showing no ability to break them down, there seems no reason for a team to play any other way. Furthermore San Jose got torched for two early goals against the Whitecaps and will look to avoid those mistakes.
The only way to open up the Quakes will be to put a ball in the back of the net. I expect a spark from Benny Feilhaber this week. He was snubbed for the United States Men’s National Team’s World Cup Qualifying games and there is no doubt he’ll be motivated to show Bruce Arena that was a bad choice. An angry Benny is an exciting Benny. He should find a lovely flick, through ball or lob into the box to assist a teammate if he just doesn’t do it himself.
Once the Quakes open up defensively it feels like all those missed opportunities from the last two weeks will start to result in some goals. I expect the Earthquakes to break through as well, just one less time.
Prediction: 2-1 Sporting KC Win
On the season I’m 1-1 with predictions. I nailed last weeks draw (if you don’t count that I expected a goal from each side) and missed on the opening draw. Sporting took until May 1st of 2016 to get two draws. It seems it is time to start winning and start scoring.