The San Jose Earthquakes are back home this Saturday when they host Sporting Kansas City at Avaya Stadium. The Quakes are looking to add to their last home performance and show the league that this team is steadily improving, Sporting, on the other hand, is at the edge of the playoff line and riding a five-match unbeaten streak and are looking to show the league that they are contenders for MLS Cup.
The Quakes took another step last week in implementing new manager Matias Almeyda’s plan even though it ended in a 2-1 loss in Houston. Jackson Yueill got his first MLS goal to level the match, but the Dynamo found a way to get the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute to end a ten-minute span where both teams combined to score three goals. Almeyda has mentioned in the past that he expects to win every match but that last Saturday was a positive sign for a team that has started the season so poorly to almost beat one of the last undefeated teams in the league.
Some of the younger players like Cristian Espinoza or Yueill are going to continue to have excellent performances if the Quakes want to win more matches this season and this Saturday is a good chance for those youngsters to show the league that they are capable of meeting that challenge. This match is also another opportunity for Tommy Thompson to continue to build his profile as a defender that can shut down attacks then fly down the wings and contribute offensively. Before the season started most people were sure that Nick Lima had the right back position locked down, but Almeyda saw something different and Lima has been relegated to the bench for much of the young season. With Marcos Lopez unavailable because of his red card against Houston, Lima is likely to get the start at left back which will give him another chance to show Almeyda that he is ready to contribute in this system. Of course it would not be a 2019 Quakes article without mention of “Wondo Watch” which for the unaware the quest for team legend Chris Wondolowski to catch up or pass Landon Donovan on the all-time goal scoring list. Wondo currently sits at 144 goals, one behind Donovan, and if he ties the record in San Jose the score at the end of the match won’t matter.
Sporting KC comes into San Jose looking to keep their hot streak alive in a place they are very comfortable winning, last September Sporting came to Avaya and put on a 5-1 clinic against the Quakes (Then again who didn’t come to Avaya last season and made themselves at home?). With 14 goals scored in six games and 16 yellow cards, they are also one of the most physical and aggressive teams in the league. On top of that, they have 16-year-old Gianluca Busio who has scored in each of Sporting’s last three matches and is one of the best young players in the league. In front of him is the powerful trio of Gerso, Krisztian Nemeth, and Johnny Russell who are looking to take advantage of a Quakes defense that has given up 16 goals so far this season. If they can crack that backline, it could be another long and painful match for Quakes fans, but if the Quakes can continue to improve as they have over the last couple of weeks, then the fans may start seeing a faint glimmer at the end of this long, dark tunnel.