Facing off in their first and only meeting of the regular season, the San Jose Earthquakes (8-10-6) play host to the Eastern Conference leading Sporting Kansas City (11-7-6) at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday evening. The Quakes, coming off a 2-0 defeat at Vancouver, play with a much higher bode of confidence when at home, having lost only one game at Buck Shaw during the 2013 season. San Jose currently boasts a 13-game home unbeaten streak, only surrendering a defeat to Real Salt Lake in their home and season opener back in March.
For two teams that don’t often see each other, their budding rivalry stems from the beginning. Throughout the 47 game history of these two MLS original clubs, each team has come away with 20 wins; seven ties between the two. In their only meeting last year, Sporting KC came away with a 2-1 win on the back of goals by C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara. The Quakes come into Sunday’s game knowing their chances at home are better, even against the Eastern Conference leaders. Quakes defender Steven Beitashour lacks no confidence, saying “any time we’re home, we’re trying to protect our home field. We’re definitely going for the win”. The last time Sporting KC won at Buck Shaw was back in the 2000 season.
Sunday’s match up is one of five remaining home games for the Quakes, and with just ten games left, the Blue and Black needs to approach them all as must-win. San Jose sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, with a comfortable 12 point lead over last place Chivas USA. Don’t fret Quakes fans; even though San Jose holds the eighth spot, they are just 11 points behind first place RSL, and four points out of a playoff spot.
What to watch for: San Jose’s Steven Lenhart and Rafael Baca are both one yellow away from an accumulation suspension. The combination of Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez has created a backline wall that has bolstered the Quakes defense. The offensive minded defenders have brought new life to San Jose’s attack since Goodson returned from international play. Fan favorite Chris Wondolowski has four goals in six matches against Sporting KC. Quakes keeper Jon Busch is one win away from his 100th career win. This is head coach Mark Watson’s first time facing Sporting KC.
Sporting KC striker Kei Kamara has scored seven goals since his return from loan to Norwich City of the EPL. Kamara is day-to-day from an ankle injury, and is questionable to play against San Jose. US National Graham Zusi leads the team with six assists. Benny Feilhaber has scored two goals in his last six games. Head Coach Peter Vermes has a 3-2-1 career record against San Jose.
(image courtesy of sjearthquakes.com)