Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Match Day 23: Games in Hand

Tomorrow night at Sporting Park, Sporting KC will begin their process of making up the one to four games in hand on the rest of the Western Conference when they host the San Jose Earthquakes. It will also be Kansas City's fourth game in 12 days when you include last week's 3-1 US Open Cup win over Real Salt Lake. The last two have been high intensity with the US Open Cup semifinal and the dramatic comeback against Vancouver. With that the worry has to be about a let down against an opponent sitting six points adrift of a playoff spot right now.

The Earthquakes are really in need of getting points at this spot in the season. They sit outside the playoffs right now, six points behind sixth place Seattle in the West. Last week their first win in eight games, ending a stretch where they'd gone 0-6-1 since the beginning of July, and that win came against the last place Colorado Rapids at home 1-0. The Earthquakes were dealt a blow in that game though when Matias Perez Garcia left the game after 50 minutes after picking up a knock. Combine that with a season ending injury that defender Jordan Stewart picked up and the Quakes just aren't in a good spot right now.

That said, KC can't be complacent about the game. The issue that KC has going against it is the fatigue factor. Over the last three games heading into this one, KC has had seven players play over 200 minutes in those three games, five (Tim Melia, Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Soni Mustivar, and Benny Feilhaber) have played all 270 of the available minutes in the last 12 days. With all the games in hand, KC will have a busy stretch run, made busier by the US Open Cup final at the end of September. With that in mind, Peter Vermes has to look to get some players some rest. With this game and a game against Columbus on the weekend it could be a decent time to rest a couple players. With today's injury report it appears that the first of those with over 200 minutes to get some rest is Soni Mustivar who is questionable. With the likes of Amobi Okugo having only played 33 minutes so far for KC, he seems the prime candidate to come in and spell the Haitian. The other question could be whether Vermes chooses to rest one of his two center backs who have both played almost every minute since Ike Opara went down with his injury. The replacement there would be teenager, Erik Palmer-Brown.

Nemeth - Dwyer - Peterson
Nagamura - Okugo
Dia - Besler - Ellis - Myers

Number to Remember - 11 - It has been 11 years since the away team has won a game in this series. The last time the away team won was on 8/14/04 when the San Jose Earthquakes came into Arrowhead Stadium and won 2-0 in a nationally televised game on a pair of goals by Landon Donovan. Since then, the home team is 12-0-2 in the series in league play and 15-0-2 in all competitions including KC being 7-0 in league play and 9-0 in all competitions.

Key Match Up - Amobi Okugo vs Chris Wondolowski - With the acquisition of Quincy Amarikwa, Wondolowski has dropped into the midfield and playing a bit more withdrawn. The former Golden Boot winner and USMNT player is still a menace and will cause KC's midfield plenty of issues. Without Mustivar in the lineup, the responsibility will likely fall to one of KC's newest players, Okugo.

PREDICTION - While the history of matches between these two teams would seem to point to a win, or at least a draw, there's so many other factors involved in tomorrow's game. On top of KC's fatigue and San Jose losing one of their better players, the Quakes also have the biggest thrown in Vermes' side when it comes to other coaches, Dominic Kinnear. While head coach of the Houston Dynamo, Kinnear always seemed able of frustrating KC and their high pressure and stealing a result. Tomorrow we get to see if he can do it with a different roster than the one he had in Houston. With KC's high profile games in the two games before, KC is prime for a let down in this one, but I think even resting guys KC has the ability to take all three points, but wouldn't be surprised if they only get one.

SKC - 1 (Dwyer)
SJ - 0

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