Sporting travels to San Jose on Saturday

Riding a five-game MLS unbeaten run, Sporting Kansas City (2-1-3, 9 points) travels to northern California this weekend to face the San Jose Earthquakes (1-5-0, 3 points) on Saturday at Avaya Stadium.

The Western Conference clash will kick off at 9 p.m. CT with three hours of live television coverage beginning at 8:30p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus. Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish) will carry local radio broadcasts.

Coming off a dramatic run to the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals-the best showing of any MLS team in the tournament-Sporting approaches Saturday’s contest with a full week of preparation under their belts for the first time this year.

The club has already played a league-high 12 matches in all competitions and can now focus full attention on the MLS regular season campaign, currently occupying the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men pushed their MLS unbeaten streak to five matches with a dramatic 2-2 home draw on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls, receiving a late equalizer from blossoming 16-year-old Gianluca Busio.

The U.S. youth international has become the youngest MLS player to score in consecutive regular season matches-doing so in three straight games since March 30-and has the opportunity to join Preki and Dom Dwyer as the only players in Sporting history to score in four straight league fixtures.

Forward Johnny Russell was also on target in Sunday’s stalemate, bagging a first-half goal to bring his total to four on the year. He joins striker Krisztian Nemeth (eight goals) and winger Gerso Fernandes (four goals) as part of a prolific front line that has already amassed 16 goals in all competitions this season.

On the opposite sideline, the maladies that plagued San Jose’s historically poor 2018 campaign have carried into 2019. Their 5-26-9 record and three total clean sheets over the last two seasons are both the worst marks in MLS.

The Quakes are under new guidance this season and have begun to show signs of improvement under first-year head coach Matias Almeyda, who guided Liga MX side Chivas de Guadalajara to the 2018 Concacaf Champions League title.

Almeyda’s high-pressure, man-marking system has vaulted San Jose into the top five in MLS in possession and interceptions.

Despite a 1-5-0 record, San Jose recently secured a 3-0 home victory over the Portland Timbers and poses a threat through the likes of attackers Danny Hoesen and Cristian Espinoza, the latter of whom played for Argentine giant Boca Juniors from 2017 to 2018.

The Quakes took a narrow 2-1 defeat at the Houston Dynamo last Saturday, equalizing in the second half through Jackson Yueill before conceding a 60th-minute strike to Tomas Martinez.

Recent history in the series belongs to Sporting, who are 5-0-1 in their last six regular season meetings against the Earthquakes. This stretch includes a 3-2 home win last March and a 5-1 thumping at Avaya Stadium last September that saw Gerso explode for two goals and two assists.

San Jose’s last win over Sporting came by a 1-0 score in April 2016, when striker Chris Wondolowski delivered the game’s only goal from the penalty spot.

Now in his 10th season with the club, the San Jose legend is two goals away from breaking Landon Donovan’s all-time MLS regular season scoring record which stands at 145. The 36-year-old Wondolowski, who has hit double-digit goals every year since 2010, has nine goals in 17 career appearances versus Sporting.

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