"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.
With a two-week break in the rearview mirror, Sporting Kansas City (8-3-2, 26 points) will continue their pursuit of first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings when the San Jose Earthquakes (3-7-3, 12 points) visit Children’s Mercy Park for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff on Wednesday.
Tickets for the Western Conference clash are available at SeatGeek.com, including Family Four-Packs bundling four general admission tickets in the South Stand, four Coca-Cola products and four Domino’s pizzas. Fans can catch the action live on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.
As Sporting prepares for a compelling midweek test and the start of a busy stretch in the season, we examine five major storylines surrounding the fixture in the space below.
1. Soaring to the Top
Sporting haven’t taken the field since the Fourth of July when Manager Peter Vermes’ men took a 2-0 road win over the LA Galaxy with goals from captain Johnny Russell and fellow forward Khiry Shelton. Despite the extended break in the schedule, however, Sporting remain withing striking distance of first place and can soar atop the Supporters’ Shield table with a win on Wednesday.
Sporting have won three straight games overall and own a 6-1-1 record since mid-May. Vermes’ side also ranks first in MLS in most attacking metrics, including goals (24), goals per match (1.85), expected goals (26.2), shots per game (16.8) and chances created per game (11.9). Winger Daniel Salloi has led the way with seven goals and three assists, although Sporting will have to atone for the absence of striker Alan Pulido. The Mexican international has bagged half a dozen goals this year but remains with El Tri for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
2. Home Fortress
The hosts will enter Wednesday high on confidence, having gone 8-0-2 in their last 10 regular season home matches at Children’s Mercy Park since last October. Sporting have also scored in a club-record 22 straight regular season home games dating back to Aug. 10, 2019.
The Earthquakes have endured significant troubles on their travels to Kansas City over the last decade and a half, prevailing just once in their last 16 visits across all competitions. The lone win during that stretch came by a 5-0 scoreline in August 2015.
3. Crashing Quakes
No team in MLS has more victories (six), points (19) or goals (20) since mid-May than Sporting. The Earthquakes, meanwhile, have failed to win each of their last eight matches during the same time period. After starting the season 3-1-0 under third-year head coach Matias Almeyda, San Jose has gone 0-5-3 and slipped to 11th in the West.
Earthquakes fans looking for silver linings will delight in the fact that 17-year-old wunderkind Cade Cowell leads the team in both goals (four) and assists (four). San Jose has also picked up back-to-back road results, tying Minnesota United FC 2-2 on July 3 and playing the Colorado Rapids to a 1-1 stalemate on Saturday.
4. Familiar Foes
Sporting and San Jose are slated to meet for the third time in less than eight months. The most recent tilt saw Sporting claim a 3-1 road win on May 22 behind goals from Salloi, Pulido and Jaylin Lindsey. The sides also squared off in the opening round of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs at Children’s Mercy Park, scrapping to a 3-3 thriller before goalkeeper Tim Melia saved all three San Jose penalty kicks to give his team an unforgettable shootout victory. It should be noted that Sporting are 7-1-3 in their last 11 matches against San Jose in all competitions.
5. Thick and Fast
Wednesday marks the start of a frantically busy run of games for Sporting, who will play nine times in 32 days between July 21 and Aug. 21. That ledger includes eight league fixtures and a highly anticipated Leagues Cup battle against LIGA MX giant Club Leon on Aug. 10 at Children’s Mercy Park. Needless to say, Vermes will have no choice but to flex his team’s depth in the coming weeks, even with Pulido and United States midfielder Gianluca Busio unavailable while on international duty.