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Sporting KC v San Jose Earthquakes: Preview, Predictions, Injuries & Starting XI

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San Jose are the only team eliminated from the playoffs but that’s no reason to underestimate them.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting KC v San Jose Earthquakes (#SJvSKC)

Saturday, September 15th, 2018 at 9:30 PM CT

How to Watch: Fox Sporting KC | ESPN+ | 810 WHB

Talk about two teams going in very different directions. Sporting Kansas City have won five of their last six and sit in second place in the West (14-7-6, 48 points). The Earthquakes on the other hand have only won two of their last eighteen (!) games and they are the only club eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs (4-15-8, 20 points). Stunningly both wins were against first place FC Dallas, so don’t sleep on this team.

To immediately contradict that, Sporting are pretty dominant against San Jose. They have gone 4-0-2 in their last six meetings and they are 1-0-1 in their last two trips to Northern California. But before that there were 18 straight visits to SJ where KC couldn’t find a way to win.

The real test will be if Sporting KC can break down the San Jose defense. Even though it’s at home, they likely will sit in and defend. They are 19th in the league in possession just keeping the ball 47 percent of the time (SKC are 2nd with 58.4 percent). Add to that the fact that Sporting are the 4th best in the league at scoring (1.81 goals per game) while SJ are allowing 1.93 goals per game which is tied for 17th. With most of the talent returning from international duty all that attacking talent needs to find a way on the road.

San Jose’s Roster Changes

This is the second meeting between these teams, so we’ve done this exercise before. Since that last meeting the Quakes traded Quincy Amarikwa to the Montreal Impact for Dominic Oduro. They added defender Guram Kashia from Vitesse on transfer. And last they took a loan from Reno 1868 FC (USL) in the form of midfielder/defender Kevin Partida. Nothing exciting. They also transferred out the young and promising Fatai Alashe to FC Cincinnati. So basically, nothing worth talking about.

Injuries

Sporting KC

OUT: Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery - out for season), Cristian Lobato (knee injury)

QUESTIONABLE: None

San Jose

OUT: Kevin Partida (knee surgery)

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspensions

Sporting KC - None

San Jose - None

International Call-Ups

Sporting KC - Diego Rubio (Chile - story - played 57 minutes 9/11), Daniel Salloi (Hungary - story - unused sub 9/11), Johnny Russell (Scotland - story - played 70 minutes on 9/11), Jaylin Lindsey (United States - story - played 211 minutes over three games in five days)

San Jose - Anibal Godoy (Panama - 90 minutes on 9/11)

Statistical Leaders

Sporting KC

Goals: Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Felipe Gutierrez (6), Ilie Sanchez (4), Gerso (3)

Assists: Roger Espinoza (9), Johnny Russell (8), Daniel Salloi (7), Diego Rubio (5), Graham Zusi (4), Ilie Sanchez, Gerso, Yohan Croizet (3), Khiry Shelton, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler (2)

San Jose

Goals: Danny Hoesen (10), Vako (9), Chris Wondolowski (8), Magnus Eriksson (6)

Assists: Wondo, Vako (5), Hoesen (4)

Recent Performances

Sporting KC - W/W/W/L/W (12 points)

San Jose - L/D/L/W/L (4 points)

Starting XI Predictions

This team is truly deep. In past seasons if they were without all three forwards, a defensive player of the year center back and a youth international, they’d have been crippled. Imagine a couple years ago that would have meant a front line of Jacob Peterson, Connor Hallisey and maybe Zusi? Then Kevin Ellis would have been in at center back.

Instead they had Gerso, Nemeth and Croizet in the front with a La Liga veteran in Andreu Fontas in the back. I’ll take the latter 100 times out of 100.

The questions for Saturday is who do you start with all the international call-ups returning? Daniel Salloi didn’t get on the field for Hungary, so it seems he should be fresh (outside of travel). Gerso has started nine straight and 13 of the last 14 games. He’s not exactly crushing it statistically, but overall he’s played fairly well. I think Gerso gets the nod over Russell who played in both games for Scotland and could probably use a break, though I imagine he’d get subbed on regardless.

At center forward Krisztian Nemeth looked okay on Saturday against Orlando City but he definitely didn’t steal the job from Rubio. The thing helping him is Rubio put in 57 minutes on Tuesday. It’s possible Nemeth starts and Rubio comes on for him, but I’d expect it the other way around.

Some people will call for Fontas to keep starting after a good debut but both he and Besler are slower players and Ike Opara can cover some ground. He is fresh after coming off suspension and should get the start. Maybe Fontas is next to him, but the defense pitched four straight shutouts just before this recent 1-1 stretch so I see no reason to change the backline. Fontas is insurance at this point.

The midfield and the goalkeeper of course will be unchanged.

Rest of the 18: Zendejas, Croizet, Fontas, Busio, Russell, Nemeth, Lindsey

With everyone back, the bench is suddenly crowded. Is there room for Nemeth, Shelton and Russell? I feel like Shelton will get a spot but I’d rather see him loaned to the Swope Park Rangers again to keep working on fitness. That would free up a spot for Busio. Alternatively he could go to SPR as well. I expect Smith, Storm and Kuzain are all back to Swope.

[The fan vote was really close this week. The GK, defense and midfield are all the same and the front line is close. Russell beat out Salloi by just a few percent but otherwise you all agreed with my lineup. Here is how close it was vote wise at winger: Gerso (53.8%), Russell (52.3%), Salloi (49.2%), Croizet (33.8%) and Nemeth (12.3%). At center forward Rubio won with 60% but Nemeth pulled in 32.3%.]

Kansas City needs to get three points against the league’s worst team. But in the words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a Trap!” Don’t get trapped KC.

Prediction: 3-2 Sporting KC Win

Who do you think will start? Who do you think should start? And what is your prediction for an outcome? Let us know in the comments.