Sporting KC Set for Saturday Showdown in San Jose
Sporting Kansas City's pursuit of an eighth straight playoff berth continues Saturday when the club visits the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 9:30 p.m. CT, with three hours of live coverage beginning at 9 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will broadcast the match in Spanish, while Sports Radio 810 WHB will air The Final Whistle postgame show immediately after full time. The Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide additional in-game updates, and viewers outside of the FOX Sports Midwest television footprint can catch a live stream on ESPN+.
All supporters are welcome to the official watch party for Saturday's showdown at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.). Starting at 9 p.m. CT, No Other Pub will offer $6 Till Vodka cocktails, an all-you-can-eat buffet with bottomless domestic draft beers as well as enter-to-win raffles for a team-signed Sporting KC soccer ball, Till Vodka merchandise and No Other Pub gift cards.
Saturday's matchup features a pair of MLS originals trending in opposite directions. Sporting KC (14-7-6, 38 points) occupies second place in the West, a point behind leaders FC Dallas and two points ahead of LAFC. Manager Peter Vermes' men own five shutout wins in their last six games and rank among the top five MLS teams in both scoring offense (1.81 goals per game) and scoring defense (1.22 goals per game). Meanwhile, San Jose (4-15-8, 20 points) has become the first club to be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, residing in the basement of the West with a league-low four wins from 27 games.
Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez found his scoring touch in Sporting KC's 1-0 home win over Orlando City SC last weekend, bagging his first goal since March 31 and the sixth of his debut MLS campaign. The result also gave goalkeeper Tim Melia his league-best 12th clean sheet as he took sole possession of second place on Kansas City's all-time regular-season shutout chart. Center back Andreu Fontas -- acquired in August after spending the first decade of his career in his native Spain -- made his first MLS appearance in the victory, with Ike Opara serving a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.
Led by first-year head coach Mikael Stahre, San Jose will return to the pitch Saturday after a fortnight of rest. The Earthquakes took a 2-1 road loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sept. 1, receiving a late consolation goal from influential playmaker Vako Qazaishvili. The Georgian international has nine goals and five assists this season as part of a competent attack that includes Dutch forward Danny Hoesen (10 goals, four assists) and prolific striker Chris Wondolowski (eight goals, five assists), whose 142 regular season goals are three shy of tying Landon Donovan's all-time MLS record.
Despite boasting a formidable front line, the Quakes have beaten just two MLS teams this year -- twice defeating Minnesota United FC before knocking off first-place FC Dallas on Aug. 4 in Frisco and on Aug. 29 at Avaya Stadium. The latter result accounted for one of San Jose's two home wins in 2018, the fewest in MLS. Stahre's side has kept just one clean sheet all season and consistently fallen short in close encounters, with 13 of their 15 defeats coming by a one-goal margin.
With five away victories in 2018, Sporting KC has equaled its entire road win total from 2016 and 2017 combined. Vermes will also be encouraged by the offensive depth at his disposal this weekend. Forwards Diego Rubio, Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi have returned to the U.S. after representing their national teams abroad and will be available for selection against the Quakes. Combining for 27 goals and 22 assists this season in all competitions, Rubio, Russell and Salloi form part of a deep attacking corps that saw Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes, Yohan Croizet and Khiry Shelton feature in last weekend's win over Orlando.
Recent results in the series have favored Sporting KC, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games against San Jose since September 2016. Similarly, Vermes' side is 4-0-2 in the state of California since June 2016 -- an impressive run that includes 2-0 triumphs at LA Galaxy and LAFC earlier this year.
On the flipside, Sporting KC has been shut out in six of its last eight trips to San Jose since 2009 and has just one win to show from 20 away games versus the Quakes since 2001. Goals have also come at a premium, with Kansas City scoring 21 times in 28 regular-season visits to Silicon Valley. Additionally, the last 27 meetings between the clubs in all competitions have seen the away team prevail just twice.
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