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Richter Report: Earthquakes Matchday 8

After going 1-1-1 in their three games last week, the San Jose Earthquakes got a nice rest before today’s clash against Sporting Kansas City. Sporting are coming off of two losses last week, to FC Dallas and a surprise loss at home to an upstart Colorado Rapids club. Both clubs will be looking to get back on track and cement themselves as a force within the Western Conference. With the big Western Conference matchup coming up this afternoon, let’s take a look at the “Tale of the Tape.”

Richter Report: Earthquakes Matchday 8

The Goalkeepers: Tie

Tim Melia is expected to get the start in net against San Jose, and he has shown a lot of improvement from last season. He’s made a couple of crucial reaction saves, and blocked a penalty in crunch time to keep the opponents off the board. While he did have an incredibly hot start to the season, the last two games he hasn’t been as hot. He can be prone to giving up rebounds so San Jose’s front line should look to follow shots and pressure him to either catch or control the rebounds on saved shots.

David Bingham on the other hand usually has a good handle on the ball. He doesn’t give up many rebounds and he is a fantastic shot stopper. He does struggle, though, when it comes to coming out to get the ball. A lot of times he misjudges or mistimes his break off the line. If he stays put, the Quakes should have an airtight set piece defense. Ultimately, I don’t see much of a difference in quality here. Both Melia and Bingham do things differently, but they tend to get the job done equally as efficient. For that, I believe it’s a tie.

The Backlines: Advantage SKC

Kansas City’s backline has a couple key qualities: experience and quality depth . Ike Opara and Matt Besler are a fantastic duo on the backline as long as Opara is healthy. If he’s not, fear not, because Sporting has another three or four center backs who can step in and do just as good of a job. Now, if Opara isn’t playing I do see Chris Wondolowski’s movement as a bit of kryptonite for this backline. Matt Besler doesn’t do well tracking Wondolowski, and the others simply are too old to chase him around the box the entire time. Seth Sinovic and Chance Meyers are really good outside backs who play both sides of the ball well. Meyers loves to push forward and overlap, but does a pretty good job at getting back to play defense.

Right now San Jose’s defense isn’t in the greatest shape. In Portland, they clearly missed Marvelle Wynne’s leadership and presence on the backline. If Goodson isn’t healthy yet, it might be a bit of a concern for San Jose. Thankfully the seven days in between their last game should give aging Victor Bernardez the rest he needs to be back at 100%. It was clear he was not ready to cope and chase Portland’s counterattacking. He had serious troubles with the speed that Portland had through their midfield. Another issue so far has been left back for San Jose. They have yet to find a good suit for left back, someone who pushes forward on offense, and can get back and play good defense. Jordan Stewart is finally close to match fit again, completing his recovery from a torn ACL that ended his 2015 campaign. Until San Jose gets Goodson back, I don’t see them being in better shape for the match than SKC’s back line.

The Midfield: Advantage San Jose

Sporting Kansas City has big name midfielders: Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Brad Davis, Roger Espinoza, Jordi Quintilla. What they don’t have is youth. Jordi Quintilla is the youngest player that sees time in the Sporting midfield and the rest are between 29 and 34 years old. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. They are quite good at what they do. An issue they have, though, is a lack of speed. Zusi is pretty quick, but not in his 2011/2012 prime. The lack of speed in the midfield is something that I think Sporting could find difficult to deal with. It was clearly and issue in the 5-0 bout that San Jose put on at Sporting Park last August.

San Jose’s midfield is quite the opposite of the Kansas City midfield. They don’t have big names, many that wouldn’t even be known outside of the club’s fanbase. They do have a lot of speed, and they are relatively young. This position group is probably the youngest of any on the Earthquakes. Anibal Godoy is a stud central midfielder who is all over the field, winning the ball back from opponents, and feeding the speedy wingers and forwards. A dilemma San Jose has is they have plenty of players in the midfield who could start, and there would be no dip in quality. Tommy Thompson has put in some fantastic performances alongside Fatai Alashe. Alashe and Godoy are much alike while Tommy Thompson and Matias Perez Garcia are one in the same as well. It’s pretty much a tossup as to who starts in the midfield. Because of Sporting’s slow and methodical buildup play, I think that a fast, smart, heavy tackling midfield is the perfect kryptonite. For that, I give the advantage to the San Jose midfield.

Forwards: Advantage San Jose

Dom Dwyer is a bonafide superstar in MLS. He should be feared because he’s the type of player that can make something from nothing. He’s absolutely electric when he wants to be. Sometimes Dwyer has a tendency to wait for the game to come to him. Sometimes that doesn’t work, especially with the type of midfielders he has around him. Dwyer will have to go in search of the ball against the Quake’s backline if he wants to have any kind of success on Sunday.

San Jose’s forward tandem has been incredibly successful in creating chances. The issue is, only one player is finishing their chances right now. Quincy Amarikwa has been sensational in creating chances and getting assists this season. His biggest issue is that he isn’t putting away his chances in and around the box. His lone goal this season, as fantastic as it was (still MLS Goal of the Year Leader in my opinion), came from 35 yards out. Even though Quincy isn’t finishing, Wondolowski has been. Wondo has only failed to find the back of the net once this season, in a 1-1 draw with D.C. United. Look for him to get on the scoresheet against a team he loves scoring against. Because of San Jose’s depth at the position and their ability to create chances between themselves, I give the advantage to San Jose’s forwards.

Tactics and Starting XI

Perez Garcia would stay out right for the most part, but not as wide as the touchline. The touchline should be covered by Wynne and Quintero. With Wondolowski dropping deep like normal, it frees Perez Garcia to move about freely on the right side and combining with whoever is willing to make runs. Godoy should push up, but not all the way to the edge of the 18. Ultimately he will provide cover for the backline. Quintero would act more as a defensive winger than someone looking to attack and get behind the backline. If he gets that far pushed up, the Quakes would be really vulnerable to a counter. He had better put away any chance that far forward. Ultimately, I see San Jose looking to absorb pressure then break on the counter. They’ll be smart about sucking Sporting into their attacking half but look to break and counter as quick as possible. It was a recipe for San Jose last season, and look for them to do it again.


San Jose 2-Sporting 0: San Jose has been incredible at home recently, and Dom Kinnear has their number. Wondolowski continues his scoring streak and Perez Garcia bags his first goal of the season as they freely counter Sporting all afternoon.


Game Notes:

San Jose vs. Sporting KC Record all-time: 23-21-7

San Jose vs. Sporting KC at home: 15-4-6 (36 GF, 19 GA)

San Jose vs. Sporting KC in 2015: 2-0-0 (6 GF, 0 GA)

Kickoff at 12:30 PT/3:30 ET on ESPN.




Main Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images



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