Running throughout the season on Sports Radio 810 WHB, the Sporting Kansas City Show is available on several podcast hubs including Spotify and iTunes as well as SportingKC.com/SportingKCShow. With Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost hosting the weekly program, Sporting fans have a place to go to catch up on club storylines, guest interviews and more.
Recent weeks have been an absolute whirlwind for Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza.
In addition to helping his team prepare for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and a Round One battle with the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday at Children's Mercy Park, the longtime MLS stalwart and two-time World Cup veteran has rallied fundraising and awareness efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta. The storm left a catastrophic impact on Espinoza's native Honduras, and Espinoza has taken a philanthropic lead by harnessing MLS as a platform for giving back.
Espinoza discussed both the playoffs and his Hurricane Eta relief endeavor in a jam-packed episode of the Sporting Kansas City Show on Tuesday with hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost. Sunday's showdown with San Jose is slated for 3 p.m. CT with live coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes, the FOX Sports app, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.
Sporting KC Show Podcast: Roger Espinoza (Nov. 17)
"You see people in Honduras walking on top of their houses because water has completely covered the streets," Espinoza said of the deadly storm that hit his homeland on Nov. 5. "When I saw that, I knew something needed to be done. A huge percentage of Honduras' coast had gone under water and millions of people were affected. I started thinking about the initiatives I could take, got in touch with Maynor Figueroa of the Houston Dynamo and we started brainstorming about what the best outcome could be.
"A lot of international MLS players from Honduras have helped, and each of us are helping the areas where we grew up. We needed more help, so we used our platform to make a video and ask for help."
Within hours, Espinoza and his Honduran colleagues had put together a video to raise money and awareness, offering three major nonprofits that are currently accepting donations: Humanity and Hope United Foundation, Operación Frijol and Food for the Poor.
As one of the league's most experienced players, Espinoza is poised to help Sporting sustain a challenge for an MLS Cup. The 34-year-old already has three U.S. Open Cup championships under his belt but has yet to win a league title, having spent 2013-2014 with English side Wigan Athletic.
"We've always been in the top three of the West but we haven't received much media attention, just being in a small market," Espinoza said of a Sporting outfit that finished atop the conference table and set a team record with 1.81 points per match. "We've been ready for the playoffs since this year started. When we came back to the MLS is Back bubble after a long break, I think the team stayed sharp and ready for everything that was to come."
The hosts also heard from San Jose Earthquakes television analyst Danielle Slaton, who provided plenty of insight on Sunday's upstart opponent. Led by head coach Matias Almeyda and all-time MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, San Jose went 6-3-1 down the stretch to grab the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.
The Earthquakes have developed a reputation as a high-pressing, man-marking team, but that approach often left the side exposed in defense during the first half of the season. San Jose allowed five or more goals on five occasions in its first 13 games, but a more pragmatic approach shored up the backline.
"When you watch San Jose play, they immediately want to win the ball back whenever they lose it," Slaton said. "In those 5-10 seconds after they lose the ball, they will continue to press if they have good numbers and good shape. If they can't win the ball back right away, you will see them regroup now. More than you've ever seen under Matias Almeyda, the Earthquakes are picking and choosing their moments positionally about when they choose to press and track players outside of their zone.
"For me, the Earthquakes strengths lie in their width. When they're playing their best, you're seeing Cristian Espinoza on the right, you're seeing Carlos Fierro on the left, and they're getting their outside backs forward. Left back Nick Lima is coming into his own again and Marcos Lopez is a new, young defender who's starting to get forward. They're using (central midfielders) Jackson Yueill and Judson to switch the point of attack with that diagonal ball and create overloads in the wide channels."
Lastly, Sports Radio 810 WHB provided bonus Sporting Kansas City content last weekend as Trost hosted a two-hour Sports Saturday program with a guest appearance from Gianluca Busio. The 18-year-old Busio has come into his own this season, featuring in the holding midfield, attacking midfield and winger positions as one of Manager Peter Vermes' most versatile weapons. Listen to the Sporting-centric "Sports Saturday" episode below.