Sporting KC @ San Jose Earthquakes (#SJvSKC)
When: Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 9:00 PM CT
Where: Avaya Stadium
How to Watch/Stream: FOX Sports Kansas City | FOX Sports Midwest Plus | Fox Sports Go | ESPN+
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM
Sporting Kansas City enter Saturday’s game with something they’ve had very infrequently in 2019. Rest. They did play last Sunday, but they didn’t have a midweek game for the first time since they demolished the Montreal Impact 7-1 earlier this season so there is nearly a full week off between games. On top of that, they enter the game riding a five game unbeaten streak in league play. Sure, they are only 2-0-3, but many of those games were on short rest or with a lineup that was less than ideal (Yohan Croizet at left back? I’ll pass).
The Earthquakes on the other hand have looked pretty terrible. They are 1-0-5 on the season and sit in 10th place in the table ahead of the Colorado Rapids and the Portland Timbers (neither of whom have won a game — and SJ’s win is over Portland). Sporting KC sit in 7th (nine points), which is just above the new red line, but are about to enjoy six straight weeks of approaching games will full or nearly full rest. The Earthquakes should be concerned.
After 18 winless games in San Jose, Sporting KC have righted the ship and have gone 2-0-1 in their last three visits, including last years 5-1 destruction of the Quakes. In the 5-1 win, Gerso was the star with two goals and two assists, which spells good things for SKC as he’s in form this season as well.
The man to watch out for is San Jose legend Chris Wondolowski who has scored nine goals in 17 meetings with SKC. Wondo has yet to score in 2019 despite playing 380 league minutes. He still sits just two goals from the all-time MLS goal scoring record. One more will tie Landon Donovan and another will place him alone in first place. After Wondo’s 144 goals, it’s quite the drop to get to the next active player, Kei Kamara, who has 116 goals.
What’s Changed in San Jose in 2019?
The biggest change is the Earthquakes have a new coach in Matias Almeyda. Almeyda, a former player out of Argentina, comes to the Quakes after having managed super clubs River Plate and Chivas Guadalajara. He famously led Chivas to a win the CONCACAF Champions League over Toronto FC in 2018.
Despite the coaching change, there was little roster turnover between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Just six players are gone and six new players are in. Gone are roleplayers like Jahmir Hyka, who was called the Albanian Messi, along with defender Yeferson Quintana and forward Dominic Oduro.
One of their bigger additions, defender Marcos Lopez (from Sporting Cristal), was red carded last time out and will miss Saturday’s game. They also added midfielder Judson on loan from Tombense and forward Cristian Espinoza on loan from Villarreal. Espinoza has made the biggest impact on the scoresheet with his two goals and an assist.
QUESTIONABLE - Roger Espinoza (knee), Andreu Fontas (calf), Gedion Zelalem (ankle)
OUT - Kevin Partida (torn ACL)
QUESTIONABLE - Guram Kashia (lower leg injury)
Sporting KC - None
Earthquakes - Marcos Lopez (red card)
GOALS - Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell (4), Gianluca Busio (3), Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez (1)
ASSISTS - Johnny Russell, Roger Espinoza, Gerso Fernandes (2), Felipe Gutierrez, Ilie Sanchez, Krisztian Nemeth, Graham Zusi (1)
GOALS - Cristian Espinoza (2), Shea Salinas, Magnus Eriksson, Jackson Yueill and Danny Hoesen (1)
ASSISTS - Salinas, Vako, Eriksson, Espinoza, Anibal Godoy (1)
Starting XI Predictions
With the schedule congestion out of the way, it seems pretty clear Peter Vermes will go with his preferred starters. There are a couple questions worth pondering.
First, who is in Vermes’ dog house? After the Monterrey game he said, “when I look at the guys who I put out there today, they had an opportunity. I believe some of them fell short.” The following game, all the regular starters were back in with the exception of Seth Sinovic. In defense of Sinovic, who was torched by Monterrey, but he had played a lot of minutes over a brief time before the game against the New York Red Bulls. Maybe it was a fatigue issue that kept him out last weekend.
Yohan Croizet replaced Seth and had probably his worst performance of 2019. I’ll defend Yohan in that he’s played in something like five positions already this year (all three forward spots, at least one midfield spot and now left back). You can’t get good at one thing when you are asked to do something different every week. That said, left back was quite poor and I suspect Sinovic is back in the lineup.
The only other position in some bit of question is, ‘does Gianluca Busio start?’ He has already appeared five times out of six games. He has 238 minutes and perhaps most importantly, he has three goals already. In 2018 when he made his pro debut, he had seven appearances and an assist but all his other stats are already eclipsed in the first 6 weeks of the MLS season.
That said, I’d still start Roger Espinoza. He only has 284 minutes this season and keeping him fresh by subbing him off and not starting him in back-to-back games should mean he can be the destroyer the team needs him to be all through the long season.
Rest of the 18: Dick, Salloi, Busio, Barath, Hasler, Croizet, Rowe
Fan Starting XI
The fan vote was overwhelming in favor of returning to the preferred starters. As of this writing, Nemeth and Melia had 100% of the vote at their positions. There were only a couple of guys that even got close to pushing a starter out. Busio did the best with 40% of the midfield vote and Daniel Salloi had 30% of the vote on the wing. I suspect they’ll both get into the game on Saturday. Nicolas Hasler and Croizet had 14% of the votes in defense, but after that it’s not even close.
From Sporting KC’s ‘By the Numbers’ series:
Sporting are 5-0-1 in their last six regular season meetings against San Jose, including a 5-1 win in their last visit to Avaya Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018.
The Earthquakes are in a rough spot. They are trying to figure out how to play Almeyda’s man-marking defense. Because of that, they are often pulled all over the field and there is space opening up everywhere. SKC will tear you apart if you play that way and leave them room to carve you up with passes. Almeyda would be smart to bunker and counter against SKC, but I’m not sure he will. It will be very disappointing if Sporting KC don’t find a way to beat the hapless Quakes, even though it’s a road game.
3-1 Sporting KC Win
What do you think? Predictions in the chat for both lineups and results are welcome. We can’t quite tell who you voted for in our other poll, so let us know why we are wrong.
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