Sporting Kansas City at San Jose Earthquakes
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 7
Saturday, May 22, 2021 | 9 p.m. CT
PayPal Park | San Jose, California
English TV | Bally Sports Kansas City
English TV | Bally Sports Midwest
Streaming | BallySports.com and Bally Sports app
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Two founding members of Major League Soccer will lock horns Saturday night at PayPal Park when third-place Sporting Kansas City (3-2-1, 10 points) visits the fifth-place San Jose Earthquakes (3-3-0, 9 points) in a compelling Western Conference clash at 9 p.m. CT.
Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest will air three hours of live television coverage on Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. CT. Viewers within the Bally Sports Midwest viewing area can also stream the action on BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app, while Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish) will transmit local radio broadcasts. Supporters can access the Sporting KC app for additional in-game updates and an exclusive trivia opportunity presented by Mainstreet Credit Union.
No Other Pub, a premier restaurant and sports entertainment venue in downtown Kansas City, will celebrate its highly anticipated reopening by hosting the official watch party for Saturday's match. From 8:30 p.m. CT until the full-time whistle, No Other Pub will offer multiple food and drink specials including $2 off appetizers, $4 Michelob Ultras and $4 select call cocktails. Sporting will also conduct numerous ticket giveaways for the club's home match on May 29 against Houston Dynamo FC.
Sporting are one week removed from their best performance of the season, having swept aside Vancouver Whitecaps FC by a 3-0 scoreline on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. Winger Daniel Salloi scored early, striker Alan Pulido bagged a brace en route to MLS Team of the Week honors, and goalkeeper Tim Melia earned a shutout in his 2021 debut after a return from injury. Manager Peter Vermes’ side finished the game with an astounding 91.6% passing accuracy, the second-highest clip in team history since Opta began tracking the statistic in 2010. The clean sheet also extended Melia’s regular season shutout streak to 360 minutes dating back to October 2020.
Under the guidance of third-year head coach Matias Almeyda—who won the 2018 Concacaf Champions League with Pulido as the manager of Chivas de Guadalajara—San Jose opened the 2021 campaign brightly by winning three of their first four games, including two comfortable home victories over FC Dallas (3-1) and D.C. United (4-1). However, their last two matches at PayPal Park have ended with shutout defeats, as Seattle Sounders FC prevailed 1-0 on May 12 and the Portland Timbers won 2-0 three days later. San Jose’s unique man-marking, high-pressure system has often translated into high-scoring matches: since Almeyda took over in 2019, Earthquakes matches have averaged 3.39 goals per game, the second-most in MLS.
Saturday’s showdown will feature two of the brightest rising stars in MLS as 18-year-old Sporting midfifelder Gianluca Busio and 17-year-old San Jose forward Cade Cowell go head-to-head. Busio has started all six matches this season as one of the most important contributors on the team, capable of playing multiple midfield and attacking positions. The Sporting KC Academy product has scored once, created six chances and won a team-best seven tackles. San Jose, meanwhile, has seen Cowell blossom into a game-changing player since debuting last summer. The U.S. youth international already has two goals and three assists to his name this season, wielding speed and physicality beyond his years.
Although he has yet to start a match for San Jose this season, 38-year-old Chris Wondolowski remains one of the most clinical attackers in MLS. The league’s all-time leading goal scorer offered a prompt reminder of his quality by scoring two late goals in San Jose’s 2-1 road win over Real Salt Lake on May 7 and has 11 goals in 20 career MLS appearances against Sporting.
Sporting are 6-1-3 against the Earthquakes in the last 10 competitive meetings since September 2016, with the lone San Jose victory coming in a 4-1 result on April 20, 2019. Kansas City is 2-1-1 in its last four visits to PayPal Park after going winless in 18 straight away games at San Jose from 2000-2016.
The last time these clubs met on Nov. 22, 2020, Children’s Mercy Park was the setting for one of the wildest MLS postseason matches in recent memory. Melia saved all three penalty kicks in a decisive shootout as top-seeded Sporting defeated eighth-seeded San Jose 3-0 on penalties following a 3-3 draw in round one of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. With the score tied at 2-2 in the late stages, Busio became the youngest MLS player to record a goal and an assist in a playoff game by firing the hosts into a 3-2 lead in second-half stoppage time. Not to be outdone, Wondolowski salvaged a 97th-minute equalizer to force extra time.
After a goalless extra-time session, Melia delivered the heroics by saving spot kicks from San Jose’s Osvaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Cristian Espinoza to improve to 6-0 in penalty shootouts throughout his career. Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez and Khiry Shelton all converted their attempts to vault Sporting into the next round.