After playing three straight matches in the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park, Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (7-4-5, 26 points) embark on their first road trip of June with a visit to the San Jose Earthquakes (5-6-4, 19 points) on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. with three hours of live television coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO. Local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish), while the Sporting KC Uphoria app will provide live updates.
Both teams will be three days removed from comfortable midweek victories in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Four different Sporting Kansas City players bagged goals in a 4-0 dismantling of Minnesota United FC at Children’s Mercy Park, while San Jose’s Jackson Yueill and Cordell Cato scored within the first six minutes of a 2-0 win over the NASL’s San Francisco Deltas.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes fielded a strong lineup in Wednesday’s Open Cup fixture, which saw defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi return to the fold after a successful stint with the U.S. Men’s National Team in World Cup Qualifying.
A stern test awaits Saturday, however, as Vermes’ men have gone winless in their last four away matches and failed to score in six of eight road games this year.
Gerso has scored in each of his last two outings, including the go-ahead goal in Sporting KC’s 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact last Saturday, and leads the team with seven goals in all competitions.
Dom Dwyer is one behind with six, having recorded his club-record sixth career U.S. Open Cup goal on Wednesday. Savvy defensive midfielder Ilie leads MLS in minutes played (1,440) as the only member of Sporting KC to play every minute of the season, while goalkeeper Tim Melia boasts a league-best 0.69 goals against average and eight shutouts.
Led by third-year head coach Dominic Kinnear, the Earthquakes are bidding for their first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2012. San Jose kicked off the 2017 campaign with consecutive home wins, but has just three victories to show from its last 13 matches.
Evergreen forward Chris Wondolowski leads the side in goals (six) and assists (five), and 2017 newcomer Jahmir Hyka has added three goals and three assists. The Quakes are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place in the West, and a victory on Saturday could separate them from Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC.
Sporting Kansas City has won three straight meetings against San Jose – including a 2-1 decision on March 18 at Children’s Mercy Park – to bring the all-time regular season series to a dead-even tie.
Both sides own 24 wins and seven draws dating back to the inaugural 1996 MLS season. In the most recent matchup, Benny Feilhaber’s first-half stunner from distance gave Sporting KC the lead before an own goal from San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham doubled the advantage in the final moments.
The Earthquakes grabbed a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time from defender Florian Jungwirth, but Melia produced a splendid save to deny Simon Dawkins on one of the game’s final plays to preserve all three points.
The most recent meeting at Avaya Stadium came last September, when Sporting Kansas City collected its first win in San Jose since 2000 to snap a dismal 18-game road winless run in the series.
Dom Dwyer headed the visitors ahead inside seven minutes, and although Dawkins leveled terms shortly before halftime, an 81st-minute back-heel from defender Kevin Ellis gave Sporting Kansas City three massive points that ultimately helped the club make its sixth straight playoff appearance.
Since September 2004, the home team in this fixture is 20-2-2 across all competitions.
Just one name adorns Sporting KC’s injury report, as homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown is questionable ahead of Saturday’s match with a hip injury.
San Jose, meanwhile, will be forced to cope with numerous absences. Jungwirth has played every minute of the 2017 season to date, but will finally miss out after sustaining an ankle injury on Wednesday. Regular starters Fatai Alashe (knee) and Shaun Francis (hamstring) are listed as questionable, while Quincy Amarikwa (ACL), Harold Cummings (ankle) and Marc Pelosi (knee) are all ruled out.
– Story from Sporting KC