On a night when Sporting Kansas City desperately needed three points, an explosive encounter at Children's Mercy Park yielded exactly that as Benny Feilhaber and Graham Smith scored second-half goals to secure a vital 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Chris Wondolowski had nodded the Earthquakes into a 1-0 halftime lead, but Sporting responded admirably after the break to claim the comeback win and move within six points of the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Saturday's battle packed a palpable intensity—sparked by end-to-end action, hard-hitting duels and an electric Children's Mercy Park atmosphere that undoubtedly helped the hosts across the finish line.
End-to-end action? Sporting and San Jose combined for 44 shot attempts, with the high-energy Quakes accounting for 25 of them. Head coach Matias Almeyda's men were particularly impressive in the first half, but Sporting gradually gained a foothold of their own in the second period.
Hard-hitting duels? The teams combined for 39 fouls—19 for Sporting and 20 for San Jose. One especially turbulent period saw referee Drew Fischer brandish three yellow cards in the space of six second-half minutes.
Add it all together, and the unprecedented nature of Saturday's clash becomes evident. Alas, the 83 combined shots (44) and fouls (39) between the teams were the most in Sporting's 757-game regular season history.
MOST COMBINED SHOTS + FOULS IN A MATCH
(SPORTING KC MLS REGULAR SEASON HISTORY)
|08/17/2019||W 2-1 vs. San Jose Earthquakes||83||44||39|
|08/16/1998||L 3-5 at Columbus Crew SC||76||36||40|
|05/18/2014||L 1-2 at Chicago Fire||75||27||48|
|03/25/2000||W 4-3 vs. Chicago Fire||74||32||42|
|05/17/2000||W 2-0 vs. D.C. United||74||23||51|
|08/26/2000||T 1-1 at Colorado Rapids||74||27||47|
|07/22/2006||L 0-1 at New York Red Bulls||74||33||41|
Perhaps no player was better fit for the physical nature of Saturday's contest than Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza. One day after announcing his retirement from the Honduras Men’s National Team, he logged his 274th Sporting appearance in all competitions to take sole possession of fourth place in club history.
But that wasn't the only history he made. Espinoza's 11 combined fouls suffered (six) and fouls committed (five) were tied for the most by a Sporting player since the Opta era began in 2010. He is the first Sporting player during that time to both suffer and commit five or more fouls in a game.
MOST COMBINED FOULS COMMITTED + SUFFERED IN A MATCH
(SPORTING KC MLS REGULAR SEASON HISTORY SINCE 2010)
|08/17/2019||Roger Espinoza||W 2-1 vs. SJ||11||5||6|
|07/27/2013||Oriol Rosell||L 0-1 at MTL||11||3||8|
|08/04/2019||Erik Hurtado||W 3-2 at SEA||10||7||3|
|07/31/2016||Dom Dwyer||W 1-0 vs. POR||10||6||4|
|04/19/2014||Dom Dwyer||W 4-0 vs. MTL||10||1||9|
|05/29/201||Davy Arnaud||L 1-4 at RSL||10||6||4|
San Jose's unique tactical style of high pressing and man-marking translated into lower than average passing accuracy and possession numbers for Sporting. In fact, it was just the fifth time during the Opta era that Sporting had under 75% passing accuracy and under 45% possession in a home match.
The good news? Counterintuitively, Sporting has emerged with four wins and a draw in those five matches.
UNDER 75% PASSING ACCURACY + UNDER 45% POSSESSION
(SPORTING KC AT HOME SINCE 2010, MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|08/17/2019||W 2-1 vs. San Jose Earthquakes||73.1%||42.5%|
|10/28/2018||W 2-1 vs. LAFC||72.9%||43.9%|
|06/19/2016||W 2-0 vs. FC Dallas||65.5%||41.6%|
|07/18/2015||W 2-1 vs. Montreal Impact||67.5%||38.5%|
|03/08/2015||T 1-1 vs. New York Red Bulls||63.2%||43.3%|
Saturday's game may have unfolded in an unusual manner, but there was nothing unusual about the result. The Earthquakes, after all, have paid eight regular season visits to Children's Mercy Park since the stadium opened in 2011. They have lost all but one of them.
Indeed, Sporting's seven regular season home wins over San Jose during the Children's Mercy Park era are their most against any opponent.
MOST REGULAR SEASON WINS BY OPPONENT AT CHILDREN'S MERCY PARK
|7||San Jose Earthquakes||7-1-0|
|5||Columbus Crew SC||5-1-1|
|5||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||5-1-2|
Another quick turnaround awaits as Sporting now looks ahead to a Rivalry Week showdown with Minnesota United FC on Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park. It's worth mentioning that Sporting is 4-0-0 at home against Minnesota across all competitions since the Loons entered MLS via expansion in 2017.
The Western Conference tilt will kick off at 8:30 p.m. CT and tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com. ESPN and ESPN Deportes will televise the contest nationally as part of a mouthwatering MLS Rivalry Week slate, featuring the league’s most compelling matchups across the ESPN and FOX networks.